Hello, Blogging Family! Some of you know that my Dad’s been experiencing some health issues over the past few weeks. I mentioned in my last post that Ivan and I limit what we post about own lives online, so I won’t get into specifics about Dad’s health out of respect for his privacy. However, I would like to share what God is teaching me through an experience where I’m helpless to help someone I love. This is a trial we all experience at some point, and I hope these thoughts encourage you in some way.
Since my post-accident memory isn’t the best, I could only remember encouraging Bible phrases – not passages – as Dad’s situation developed. The first phrase was one I’d been praying over for most of the summer as it applied to witnessing for Christ in a secular society: “…We will speak the truth in love, growing more and more like Christ…” I was curious why God kept bringing this phrase to mind as I prayed for my Dad, so I looked up the original passage:
“Then, we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing more and more like Christ who is the head of his body, the church.” ~ Ephesians 4:14-15
Dad’s situation seemed detrimental to his ministry goals, and I thought it was even more unfair that my parents would experience their own health trial after they’d sacrificed so much for Ivan and me. But after reading Ephesians I realized I was buying into the “fairness” ideology that doesn’t account for God’s grace. I can’t always make sense of His plans, but I have to trust that the God who sacrificed his Son for our sins – the epitome of an unfair bargain – sees our needs and will meet them perfectly.
The second verse that was cycling through my mind was: “Put on your new nature and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him.” (Colossians 3:10). I’d been pondering this verse for a while, and it seemed fairly obvious that trials offer a deeper opportunity to take up my cross and rely on Christ. Still, I was still curious to look up the whole chapter and see how context altered or expanded the idea:
“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.” ~ Colossians 3:1-4
These verses actually come before the verse I’d been considering. The only way to put on our new nature as Christ-followers is to fix our eyes on the prize he’s won for us: an eternity with God in heaven. As much as I love my Dad and am praying for his health issues to be resolved, I can take joy in the fact that Christ has already ensured his spiritual welfare, and that we’ll all spend an eternity worshiping God in heaven.
And finally, there’s the book of James. It wasn’t hard to remember James 1:2 after five years of memorizing it every year as a kid in AWANA: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” But I still wanted to see how the passage ended since I’d been so encouraged looking up Ephesians and Colossians. Sure enough:
“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” ~ James 1:2-4
This passage contained the four words that struck me the most of anything I’d read so far: So let it grow.
My natural tendency is either to resist trials or pretend I’ve got them under control. As I watch a loved one suffer, I’m also reminded I have the potential to resist on someone else’s behalf. Surrendering a trial’s outcome to God is the hardest response, but James says it’s the only way to increase our endurance.
So let it grow.
We’re still not completely of the woods with Dad. On a personal level, my brain injury damaged the part of the brain that connects logic with emotion, so reviewing what is true about God doesn’t always counteract anxiety. But the Holy Spirit is bigger than both struggles and God promises to remain faithful as we renew our minds daily in His Word. My hope is that these passages can encourage those of you facing uncertainty – and inspire you to be curious about the context of every verse God uses to encourage you along the way.