At least once per day, I find myself thinking, I’m pretty sure my kids are insane.
My daughter, Charis, is flipping out because she can’t wear the skirt she wants to wear. “You NEVER let me wear ANYTHING!” she tells Jen. I don’t usually point out that, technically speaking, we do let her wear clothes. My daughter Gwendolyn is screaming because I won’t let her eat the dishwasher detergent pouches that looks suspiciously like candy. My daughter Ella has just thrown a roundhouse punch at Charis, because Charis won’t let her pretend to be Elsa, from Frozen. You get the point.
What I’m learning is that if I’m going to grow in patience, God has to put me in situations which actually require patience. Thus, God gives me children who are insane, in order that I might grow in love and patience.
For some reason, I tend to think that change happens in a vacuum. It’s like I think of sanctification as being some kind of divine magic trick. I pray that I would grow in mercy, and God magically makes me more merciful. I pray that I would trust God more, and God magically infuses me with more trust. I pray that God would help me be more loving, and, presto chango, I’m suddenly more loving.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. Sanctification happens through circumstances.
In James 1:2-3, it says:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
God brings various trials into our lives in order that we might grow in steadfastness. We can’t grow in steadfastness unless God takes us through trials.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
When we experience affliction, we also experience God’s comfort. We, in turn, are then able to comfort others with the same comfort we received. Being afflicted causes us to be more compassionate and merciful toward others, and prepares us to offer divine comfort to others. We could not offer this comfort unless we are first afflicted ourselves.
Jesus commands us to love our enemies. We won’t grow in loving our enemies until we have a tangible opportunity to do so. We won’t grow in trusting God until our budget becomes uncomfortably tight. We won’t grow in being merciful until we are let down by our close friends. We won’t grow in peace until our future becomes uncertain.
Don’t despise the circumstances in which God has placed you. He is using your crazy kids to teach you patience. He is using your singleness to teach you trust. He is using your extended illness to teach you rejoicing. He is using your tight budget to teach you dependence.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear someone screaming.