Hope beyond failure

My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion for ever.  (Psalm 73:26)

So true.

My body is breaking down. It’s the chemo today, but it fits with the trend. I’m not getting any stronger, faster, or fitter. I keep wearing out.

My spirit waxes and wanes. Today I ache and groan. Misery clouds the sunshine. Who knows about tomorrow?

I cannot depend on my flesh or my heart. They’re unreliable. They’re weak. They’re fickle. They’re false.

God is the one I can trust. He will not let me down. It’s not that I keep hold of him, but that he doesn’t let go of me.

fingerYet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
(Psalm 73:23)

Thank you God.

Wednesdays were pretty normal

WednesdaysGreat title. Great cover. Great book! Wednesdays were pretty normal: A boy, cancer, and God by Michael Kelley has given me plenty to think about. It’s an open and honest story of a father wrestling with faith questions, after his boy is diagnosed with leukaemia. All the books I’ve read on cancer and serious illness so far, have been written by the patient themselves. This book, by the father, feels even more potent. When it’s happening to me, that’s bad enough, but if it were my own child, then I suspect I’d find it even harder. I especially recommend this book to parents who face the heartache of their children having serious illnesses. This is a battle ground for faith. Not just intellectual ascent, but struggle to keep trusting in God.

Kelley was trained as a pastor and thought he knew all the right answers to most problems. He figured he understood faith. It was a noun. Joshua’s cancer put this to the test. He began to realise it was something he needed to choose. It was one thing to have a set of beliefs, but another thing entirely to act on them in adversity. If God was truly in control of this world, then what did that mean for the evil and cruelty he saw and was now experiencing? He couldn’t pick and choose what he liked about God. If God was to be trusted for real, then this meant trusting him in the good times and the bad.

Faith and doubt are sometimes seen as opposites. Kelley shows how they are often part of the same experience. He’s on solid scriptural ground with this, quoting the man who came to Jesus in Mark 9:24, saying “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” There is a humility in these words. The man’s failings are obvious. All he can do is trust in Jesus, because his own resources are lacking. Isn’t this the essence of faith – trusting in Jesus, rather than trusting in our own faith? I wonder how often those who are perceived to have a ‘strong faith’ are tempted to trust in the wrong thing – ultimately themselves? As Kelley writes…

What if our definition of faith is wrong? What if we have been putting faith in our own ability to have faith? What if real faith is not necessarily absent of questions and doubts; what if real faith is more about what we do with doubt than whether we have it?  (p33)

As Kelley describes the impact of chemo on his boy, I find myself feeling most of what he describes. He speaks of the toxic impact, the drugs, the side effects, the pain killers. He also describes the psychological impact, the emotional pain, and the spiritual questioning. Why are these things happening? He introduces us to the experience of Job in the Bible, and his quest to find answers from God. Job puts his challenges to God, and yet God chooses not to answer them. Instead, through four chapters, God makes himself known. Not why, but who, is the answer God gives.

Never once did God crack the door of eternity and say, “See this whole thing started when Satan came walking in here…” Never once did He take Job into the future to show him the good that would come from his struggle. Never once did He reveal the way He would redeem Job’s pain. Never did God show Job one of the billions of Bibles that would be printed in the future, all containing his story. Not one single answer to Job’s specific questions. Just descriptions of himself.  (p50)

Kelley shares his ongoing struggles to find evidence of God’s love. The circumstances of pain seem to argue against God being loving towards him. Where is God when he’s needed? Why doesn’t he fix things up when he’s asked? He writes…

I didn’t need a Jesus who was sleeping in the boat while the storms raged around His friends. I needed a Jesus who was turning over the tables of sickness and disease and calling out cancerous cells like they were demons.  (p56)

I can certainly relate. What a great picture! But, if we only look to our circumstances for proof of God’s love it can easily seem like God has given up on us. We need to remember how acquainted Jesus is with human suffering. He didn’t offer sympathy card platitudes. He shared in our pain and he shed tears like us. He faced rejection, betrayal, torture and death. He bore our sin in his body. He took the judgment we deserve. Here is compelling proof that God is not remote, that he hasn’t abandoned us, and that his love is profoundly deep.

Kelley shares the breadth of grief he experienced in dealing with his son’s cancer. The dreams that were shattered and the plans unfulfilled. He speaks of losing his identity, his sense of significance, and becoming poor in a variety of ways. The experience of Joshua’s sickness and treatment was hugely demanding. It took Kelley to the ends of his resources, and it was then that he began to picture himself more accurately. When career and health and achievements and family life are all altered and threatened, then the truth about ourselves comes into focus. It’s only when the things we’ve clung to to define ourselves are stripped away, that we are freed to see ourselves more clearly in Christ.

We learn in this book about how God has brought healing to Kelley through his son’s illness. God revealed to him sicknesses that he didn’t know he had.

It’s brought to light my shallowness. It’s brought to light my idealistic view of faith. It’s  brought to light my dependence on circumstances and my reluctance to accept responsibility. It’s brought to light my love of all things material.  (p146)

God taught Kelley many lessons about patience. Patience is faith that waits. Treatment for childhood leukaemia is a long term process. Even after the words remission were used, chemo had to continue for the remainder of three years. In the midst of their pain and exhaustion, the family kept looking ahead in hope, knowing that they couldn’t have what they wanted, just yet. Living in the western world leads us to expect instant gratification, and the church has also bought into this trap. So often God says to wait. He has good things for us, but we must wait.

There were many things in this book that stretched me. The big issues for me had to do with the nature of faith. It made me realise that there are times when I assume I’m exercising faith, when in reality I’m probably not. It’s just that I become used to the routine, what’s coming up. This is familiarity rather than faith. Faith is about looking to God when the routine is blown, when the expectations are shot, when I can’t control the circumstances. It’s also about recognising God’s hand and provision in the routine and mundane. This book has reminded me that passive faith isn’t really faith at all. Faith is active and we need to fight for it.

As the Apostle Paul wrote to his protege so long ago…

10 … (some) have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.  (1 Timothy 6:10-12)

Letters from the land of cancer

wangerinI began reading Letters from the Land of Cancer by Walter Wangerin Jr. nearly a year ago. However, I didn’t finish it. I think I felt a little overwhelmed by it. The topic, the intensity, the unrelenting discussion of cancer and death. I wasn’t yet ready to read 22 letters by a man reflecting on his cancer. I set myself the project of reading it all this week. If I was planning to write a book about living with cancer, then I needed to consider what it felt like for the reader. This probably makes me one of the more motivated of his readers. We share the same cancer, a similar profession, same number of children, grandchildren (that’s right – I’m awaiting delivery in October), love of motorcycles, and more.

The obvious difference is that Walter Wangerin is a world-class, well-respected, writer. That makes WW a WWW! (Grandad joke!) He’s a teacher of English literature and a prolific writer of fiction. He’s a wordsmith. He’s eloquent. He’s poetic. His writing is thick, like treacle. It’s deep, intense, heavy, profound. His words are disturbing, niggling, probing. But they’re also light and fresh and invigorating. They stir the soul to action. At least, they did mine. I’ve written so many notes and comments and questions.

I found this book hard to get into, but harder to put down. I wanted to know what happened next. What did you learn? How is your treatment? How is your wife? What are the doctors saying? What are the results of the next scan? How does this mesh with your faith? What is important to you now? What will you make your priorities? What’s it like to be on oxygen 24/7? Why don’t you pray for your own healing? Why do you look forward to death? How do your family feel? What leads you to say your cancer is an adventure? Or a blessing rather than a battle? I suspect that I was vicariously travelling this journey with him, and that these are more questions about me than him.

This book worked for me. It pushed me to reflect, to reconsider my own experiences, to look again to God. It’s heavy, but he’s writing about heavy stuff. Reading 22 letters one after the other is a bit like watching a still frame motion picture. You know, the ones that show a seed being planted, a sprout emerging from the ground, a plant growing to maturity. All frame by frame. One picture per day. It’s like that. We see the outside journey experienced by the Wangerins, and we also learn of the inner journey, the impact on his mind and heart, his faith and convictions.

I’m not sure who I’d give this book to. My dad has read it, so I’ll have to ask him his thoughts. I suspect you’d want to be a serious reader to tackle it. I also suspect you’d need to be willing to be confronted heavily with your own mortality. It’s no coincidence, that I wrote the poem, Pain, while reading this book. It’s an intense book.

Following his journey throughout this book, I fully expected the final chapter to be posthumous. Perhaps, a final word from his wife, speaking of Walter’s passing. But no. It’s all Walter. The cancer was discovered in 2005, the final letter of the book written in 2008, the publishing date 2010. As soon as I finished the book, I hurried to my computer and googled his name. So when did he die? According to his website he has a speaking engagement on May 31 in West Virginia, so I’m guessing not yet!

I’d love to meet this man. I think we’d have a lot to talk about!

Simple schoolies alternative

Over recent months I’ve been meeting with other parents from church, to pray for our teenagers. The adolescent years can be pretty volatile. Kids are turning into adults. Hormones are kicking in. Once delightful compliant children can morph into something from the Twilight series. Key among these changes are issues of faith. Do I believe what mum and dad believe, and do mum and dad really believe it any way? Have I just been swept along by the expectations of my church or youth group? What is real?

Burrill2As I was talking (and later praying) with another dad from church a few weeks back, I got the idea of offering to take a bunch of graduating year 12 boys/young men away for a couple of days to focus on life after school from God’s perspective. I invited 10 guys in our church and ended up having 6 come away with me, and my son, Luke, and our youth director, Steve, for the weekend. We headed to the coast and set up camp for the weekend. Some time was spent in the surf, playing various games, or just chilling around the campsite. The main game was to open the Bible and to talk together about stuff that mattered – and we did!

Here is a simple summary of what we looked at:

Saturday morning
Getting to the guts of the gospel. I shared my experiences as a teenager of constantly failing God, wondering if I was really a Christian, wondering if it was true, not being able to turn over a new leaf, hoping a change from Canberra to Sydney would change everything, and more. During 1st year uni I came to understand Romans 5:6-11 and this changed everything. God wasn’t waiting for me to make myself good enough for him. He was reaching out to me as a rebel, forgiving all of my sin in Jesus, and having guaranteed my current standing with him as not-guilty, I had nothing to fear from God, and was freed up to serve him with joy.

6 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

Saturday afternoon
Beginning with the end in mind. We talked about how the shortness of time clarifies what’s important. If 80 minutes has passed in a game of rugby and your team is 4 points behind, then you hang on to the ball for phase after phase, aiming for that 5 point try. If you have an exam tomorrow, then it makes sense to start studying. If your life is short, then it’s important to know what is worthwhile doing. I shared how my cancer diagnosis has sharpened my focus of what matters in life.

I got all the boys to share their plans for the year ahead and beyond. Some were looking at gap years, others heading to uni or tech, some leaving home, others staying with family. We looked together at Psalm 90 and saw how the eternal God has numbered our days and called us to live for him and find our satisfaction in him. In particular we brainstormed what this verse would look like for each of us in our contexts.

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12)

We also looked at the typical Aussie dream and how chasing affluence, influence, pleasure and security are the messages we hear every day. Jesus critiques these ideas and shows how the brevity of life and the certainty of death make a mockery of a life spent chasing this stuff.

15 Then he (Jesus) said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ 18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

21 “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15-21)

This bloke made 3 fatal mistakes. He thought riches would guarantee him security. He thought he had all the time in the world. And ultimately he thought only of himself, leaving God right out of the picture. That night his life was demanded of him. I urged the boys not to fall into the same foolish and fatal mistakes.

Saturday night
Q and A. We built a raging campfire and sat around with the boys asking me questions. We covered a lot of ground with different topics. These included relationships, marriage and sex; life in residential colleges; helping people grapple with issues such as the horrors done in the name of Christianity, or what happens to people who’ve never had a chance to hear about Christianity; what to do when you’re struggling; and more.

Sunday morning
Don’t sell out for a bowl of soup. We looked at how temptations can be so appealing and seem to offer so much, and yet how easy it is to get everything out of perspective. Everyone agreed that we wouldn’t swap an inheritance from our parents for a meal, and yet this is the risk when it comes to inheritance from God. We can be tempted to look at people not following Jesus and think we’d be better off if we were like them. Perhaps it’s their perceived sexual freedom, or their power or wealth, or maybe it’s that our inheritance from God seems so intangible or remote. We checked out these verses from Hebrews:

24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)

15 See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. (Hebrews 12:15-16)

We talked together about how being Christian is for the long haul and God wants us to encourage each other to persevere and live our lives for him. These verses show how we can invest in the lives of one another.

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

God doesn’t expect us to be Robinson Crusoe Christians. The boys shared how they thought they could encourage each other. There were some great ideas that focused around being genuine, getting past trivia, and caring about how each is going with God. This was important, given they were heading in different directions, with different challenges ahead.

Finally, we discussed how we would all stuff up and why it was so important to remember the grace of God. Rather than hiding from God when we feel that we don’t measure up, or when we know we are guilty of not living for him, this is the time to draw near and rely on his grace. Jesus knows what we’re going through. He was tempted as we are. He was challenged to give up his inheritance for a ‘bowl of soup’ too. But he drew near to God and trusted him, even to death.

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

BurrillI think this was a good weekend. The boys told me so! One shared how it had encouraged him as he struggled with his faith. My prayer is that it will help these guys to remember the gospel, and live it out as they face massive changes in the year ahead.

It wasn’t hard to pull off a weekend like this. It’s a simple schoolies alternative, or add-on. It was fun, relaxed, and at its heart it was a serious time together. Maybe next time we’ll do it for 3 or 4 days. Perhaps you could consider this with year 12s from your church or network. I focused on boys so as to keep things simple, but there would be opportunities with girls too. God-willing, we might try to do both separately next year. If you’d like to know more about how it worked or to talk through possibilities for something similar, please get in touch.

Journey with Cancer 2 Dec 2012 – What a year!

tilleysTwelve months ago today, I was catching up with good friends in a coffee shop near home. We do it once a year, at roughly the same time, and we’ve been doing it for years. These guys come from Melbourne, Wollongong, Brisbane, Perth, and Canberra. We talk about what’s been going on, we share our plans for the future, and we spend some time praying for each other. Once a year means it’s pretty special and I look forward to our catch ups as a highlight.

As we drank our coffees and shared our news, I knew that something was wrong. I had a pain in my chest and between my shoulder blades. My left arm seemed to be going numb. My left leg didn’t feel right, either. I’d been putting up with it for a while, not wanting to break up our time together, but I couldn’t keep ignoring it. I wasn’t imagining things – something was wrong.

Half an hour later I was in hospital – query heart attack. ECG seemed normal, and nothing on the x-ray, but the CT scan showed that things weren’t right. There was a massive build up of fluid around my left lung and it was suggested that I could have a tumour. Mesothelioma produces symptoms like this and so can lung cancers. Over two litres of fluid were drained out of the pleural cavity. It was almost certainly cancer and it didn’t look good. But how? I hadn’t been a smoker. I couldn’t think that I’d been exposed to asbestos. What was happening?

That was Friday, 2nd December 2011, and a year has now passed. What a year it’s been! I consider this an anniversary of sorts. One year of ‘consciously’ living with cancer. They said that I’d probably had the cancer for more than three years previously, without being aware of it. Now it was making it’s presence felt. Now it was changing, shaping, directing, and even shortening my life. Something the size of a ping pong ball had grown, ruptured, spread, damaged and contaminated me. Stage IV inoperable non-small cell lung cancer. This foreign growth was turning my mid-life into an end-of-life crisis. Or so it seemed. The oncologist said it couldn’t be removed or cured. I’d probably see the next Christmas, but he didn’t offer anything more. My health crashed, my weight disappeared, my life seemed to be fading before my eyes. Many times we doubted that I’d live long at all.

That was a year ago and I’m still living with cancer! While I loathe the cancer, and I’d dearly love God to take it away, I thank God earnestly for the life he’s given me. How amazing to live! I no longer take living for granted. In fact, I don’t take breathing for granted any more. I can’t make assumptions about tomorrow, or next week, or next year. Each day, every breath, is a gift from God. I’ve been reminded of what the Scriptures say:

[God] himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17:25)

Over this past year, God has been teaching me many things. A big one – and there’s much more to learn yet – is humility. God’s humbled me deeply, to trust in him rather than in myself and my resources and abilities. I’d been such an activist in so many ways. Set me a challenge and I’d have a crack. I tended to know my capabilities and I’d trust them. I’d say that I trusted God, but I suspect that I was often simply relying on myself. I’d make plans, get busy, forget to pray, work harder, and then call out to God if I was desperate. God has shown me that I can do nothing without him, and for this I thank him.

God has taught me to treasure people more. He’s shown me how much I value my family. He’s deepened my love and appreciation for my wife. He’s given me great delight in my children. He’s enabled me to enjoy renewed relationships where they were once strained. He’s brought new people into my life. He’s encouraged me with the love, support, and generosity of many friends. He’s given me opportunity to bless others and to be blessed by them. Thank you God!

God has renewed my desire to know him better. He’s reminded me that he’s the ultimate source of wisdom, and that I must know him before I can truly know myself. He’s gifted me with time to read and reflect and write, and a thirst to do this more and more. In writing, God has caused me to think and learn and articulate. He’s opened my eyes to see the amazing truths of his Word in new ways. He’s given me new understanding. He’s strengthened my delight and confidence in him.

God has taught me to lift my horizons. It’s so easy to be consumed by the things of life. Many of our lives are so comfortable, that it’s hard to imagine wanting for anything else. Many of us enjoy heaven here on earth – or so we think. God has burst this bubble. He’s reminded me that life is short. There’s so much more to life than the trivia that fills so much of our time. God has pushed me to focus on things that’ll make an impact for eternity. He’s lifted my heart and mind, to find my hope in him for eternity, and not in the fleeting things of this life.

Most of all, God has been teaching me to keep my faith in Jesus Christ. Every promise God has made, he has answered positively in Jesus. God has shown himself to be totally trustworthy. I’ve been tempted to doubt this – looking at my circumstances, wondering why, struggling for answers – but God keeps bringing me back to Jesus. God knows my weaknesses. He’s heard my cries. He’s seen my tears. And he keeps pointing me to his Son. Jesus is the proof that God is for me. Jesus is the evidence that God loves me. Jesus’ death is the reason God accepts me. Jesus’ resurrection is my hope for eternity.

I know these things more clearly today than I did a year ago, and for this I thank God. My great desire for my friends and family is that they might know these things too – but without getting cancer or facing difficult trials. To misquote John Lennon, “All I am saying is give God a chance!”

My prayer is that God will deepen my faith in him, my hope in eternity, and my love for others. And I would love to pray the same for you.

Consider it pure joy

Sickness, loneliness, trouble at work, struggles in marriage, financial pressure, wayward children, car accidents, overlooked for promotion, slandered, mocked, imprisoned, persecuted. Who wants a piece of that… any of it? And yet James writes in the Bible:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…  (James 1:2)

What was he thinking?! And he doesn’t simply say, look on the bright side, cheer up, things will get better. He says to consider it pure joy (or all joy) whenever you face trials. And he doesn’t restrict the range of trials. I take it this covers pretty much the full spectrum of nasty things that could happen to you. How do you adopt such a view of life? And is this any different to the power of positive thinking?

Perhaps we need to consider the meaning of joy. The temptation is to equate joy with happiness or a bubbly personality or a permanent smile. But joy runs deeper than an emotional response. It has to do with contentment and trust and confidence. In James’ words he calls us to a thinking response more than an emotional response. He’s not telling us how to feel about the trials we’re experiencing, he’s telling us how to think about our circumstances, to consider it pure joy when we face various trials. But why?

…because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  (James 1:3)

The experience of facing trials puts our faith to the test. It shows up what’s real and not real. Theoretical faith is no faith at all. Genuine faith is shown by it’s action, it’s fruit, the changes it produces. And the real test is perseverance, keeping on when things are tough, and finishing the race.

Sadly, I know a number of people who have claimed to have faith in God, who’ve claimed to be Christian, who have said most of the right things… but when pain and difficulties and trials have come along their faith has proved wanting. Perhaps they were presented with a false picture of God – one where he’d remove anything undesirable – and it didn’t stand up to their experience. Maybe they hadn’t really come to the point of trusting God at all. When life is good, when we’re healthy, wealthy and happy, it’s easy to think we’re in control and not bother trusting in God.

Trials of various kinds give us the opportunity to live out our faith, to demonstrate a faith that works. I would never have planned it this way, but my experiences with cancer over the past year have given me many reasons to examine my faith and look again to God. Will I trust God with what I do not like? Can I be contented and joyful in the midst of painful chemotherapy? Can I count it as pure joy to have an ‘incurable’ lung cancer? Please note, I’m not saying that the cancer is a good thing. God is sovereign over all, but he teaches me that cancer, disease and death is part of this cursed world that he will ultimately restore. I don’t go looking for trials, but they will come and the question is how I respond when they do.

I’ve had a number of people say to me that they’ve been observing my faith more closely since I’ve got sick. They’ve heard me preach and teach and counsel people over the years, but now they are watching how I respond personally? Is my faith really real? Does it stand up? Will I persevere or turn away? My prayer is that I will persevere as my faith is tested and consider it pure joy when I face these and other trials, because of what God is doing through them.

One of my problems is that I’m so short sighted. All I can see is the immediate trial. Right now, it’s the effects of chemo: the headaches and nausea and rashes and fatigue. Another time it’s the struggle of a difficult relationship, or the criticism of others, or my disappointment in myself. God is calling me to get the bigger picture, to grasp his perspective. James continues…

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

The God who reveals himself in the Bible doesn’t promise health and prosperity… in this life. He doesn’t say that he will remove all our suffering and take away all our pain… in this life. But we can be confident that God is at work in all situations. He is growing our faith muscles against the resistance of trials and difficulties. He is strengthening us to persevere through the trials, that we might become mature and complete in him.

Do I always have this perspective? Sadly, no. Sometimes the end is hard to see behind all the hurt and the pain. And at these times God promises to help.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  (James 1:5)

This is a wonderful promise. When we’re blinded to the truth of God at work in our lives, we should ask God for wisdom to see things more clearly, to see things through his eyes. And he promises to give generously. God knows it’s hard, he knows it hurts, he knows we’re weak, and he doesn’t find fault. He gives us the wisdom needed to be able to count it pure joy.

When I was younger I remember singing the song, ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’. It’s a great song, but I think this second verse means more to me now than it did back then…

Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged;
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
take it to the Lord in prayer.

And so I will pray…

Heavenly Father,
Please give me the wisdom to see things your way.
Please help me to look beyond my current circumstances,
to be reminded that you are working within me,
to strengthen my faith,
to enable me to persevere,
and grow into maturity.
I ask that you will help me consider it pure joy as I face my trials.
Amen