I think my patience in waiting for God's "good purpose" has been wearing thin. I need renewed joy in this trial! My endurance in suffering is shabby. I'm already out of breath!
Trial, we are told, is God's way of refining his children, making them more like Jesus, deepening the character and filing off the rough edges. I think we are to "count it all joy" because the trial is ultimately for a good purpose. Pain has the ability to either make us calloused and bitter or to soften us further.
Several times, I've caught myself thinking that losing Cora is God's punishment for sin in my life. Eek! It sounds ridiculous, but let me tell you, it's easy to believe when you're the one being "afflicted." I seriously struggled with guilt thinking that this wouldn't have happened if I had only been holier. I wrestled with this lie until I heard Pastor Mark Bates say this in a recent sermon:
"Punishment gives you the result of your sin. Discipline, however, sets you on a course of correction."
He went on to elaborate that Jesus already paid the full consequence of sin. Jesus' death on the cross is a finished work. He paid it all. He took all the punishment on himself, not just some of it. So, I can safely say I am not being punished for my sin.
On the other hand, God disciplines us because he loves us too much to allow us to keep going the wrong way. He corrects our course, our behavior and attitudes, because he loves us. And, you guessed it, one way that God corrects us is through trial. Divine discipline is often experienced as earthly suffering. (Disclaimer...I'm not saying this is true in all cases. Job's suffering, for example, was for an entirely different purpose.) One thing that is for sure, trouble drives us to our knees before the Throne of Grace, and that is always for our good.
This Divine discipline has to be another good purpose for me because when I take the "long view," as my dad often encourages me to do, I see that the Lord's correction is just like a parent's correction of a child. It's for the child's safety, growth and understanding. But boy, it hurts! He has redirected my works-oriented way of life to a grace-filled way of life. He has exposed my hypocrisy: "To obey is better than sacrifice." He has revealed my idols and the objects of false hope and smashed them. He has confirmed to me that he really is sovereign and in control. And so much more!
Often I find myself saying, "Okay, God, I'm ready to be done with this now. Thanks for the stuff you're doing through Cora's death, but I'm ready to be done with this hurting. I've learned enough lessons. Can I get my badge and go home now? I mean, really, how long is this going to take?"
And I imagine others silently asking the same thing..."how long will she continue to grieve, be sad, awkward or whatever?" Again, I imagine this. No one I know has actually made me feel this way. "But seriously, can't she be over it by now?" Ah, pesky, little voice in my head, no, I can't. Believe me, I would if I could.
So, I must be patient and bear up, knowing that the Lord is doing something far greater through my pain. He has saved me, and now he is sanctifying me in the Refiner's Fire. And even now, I feel an odd sort of joy at this realization. Indeed, it is a very odd sort.
(If you are reading this, and you are going through the Fire right now too, I pray that the God of all comfort will guard your heart, hold you up and give you the strength to find his good purpose in the midst of your pain. You are not alone, and you have my prayers.)