Listen to this devotional:
Listen while you read: "Eternal Father Strong To Save"1 (Lyrics)
A friend shared how she had once asked God to stop sending trials because she couldn't handle any more. She confessed, "God did grant me a trial-free year; but it was a spiritually dry year." She missed the warm presence of the Lord. She added, "I never grew during that year." Through her trial-free year, she remembered the value of what I call unwelcomed blessings.
Occasionally, I ponder such blessings — the ones that I never wanted. These stress points were the marks of the Master Craftsman whittling away the rough edges of my character. It was all for my good, and that is why they are, indeed, blessings:
Hebrews 12:10b-11 – God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (NIV 2011)
Trials are much harder to endure when one sees no purpose in them. Thankfully, God's children need not be ignorant of His purposes. Scripture provides answers. Our challenge is to appreciate the outcomes intended by God — those qualities of spiritual maturity: peace, righteousness, perseverance, patience, faith, holiness, and much more.
My lengthy list of unwelcomed blessings includes those times when I was confronted with loss, hurts, or humiliations; when I felt misunderstood or rejected; and when I sensed failure. The initial sting of these training experiences diminished as I realized how they helped break down my pride, strip the veneers of falseness, deflate my self-serving ambitions, and much more.
Scripture puts value on our unwelcomed blessings: "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." (James 1:2-3 NIV 2011)
I admit that I still don't receive trials with pure joy. (I doubt that I even know what that is!) My instinct is to grumble, control, and fret. Surely, it's because I don't yet fully appreciate the intended outcome of this training: "Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:4 NIV 2011)
That includes pure joy, which Jesus Himself possessed even in His darkest hour. He prayed that we, too, would possess that quality: "that they may have the full measure of my joy within them." (John 17:13b NIV 2011)
Jesus could accept His sufferings and death as unwelcomed blessings because He valued the outcome: the blessings of salvation for many. Jesus was thinking of His church, including you and me. Imagine that in itself giving Jesus pure joy!
Prayer: Dear Master Craftsman, train us to appreciate and crave the beautiful qualities of spiritual maturity that come through Your whittling touch. Even in the pain, may we learn to view it all as for Your glory — joyfully. Amen.