The Two Paths Out of Trials
There are two paths for people to take in the midst of trials. They can take the path of self-reliance or the path of trusting in God.
The path of self-reliance sometimes sounds like angry recriminations against God, sometimes an upbeat can-do attitude. But in both cases God is rejected. Maybe he didn’t cause the trial, but he surely could have prevented it. So he is charged, convicted, and imprisoned.
The path of trusting in God, admittedly, is difficult. It takes a childlike humility, like staring down at a piece of loathsome brocolli but trusting your mother when she says it’s good for you and eating it. The trial doesn’t make sense. It hurts. You don’t think you deserve it. But you trust that, yes, God has assigned it, and so you accept it. You trust that he has something better in store–something somewhere in some way, though it’s hardly perceptible right now.
I remember sitting with Margaret on more than one occassion as she wept over all that life had done to her. I understood her weeping. She had been hurt much, lost much. Yet somehow, down there in the depths of her despair, her heart raged. It raged against the Lord and his Word. It raged against the church. She was lonely, desperate, tragically sad, and as proud as a bull. And I remember thinking that her pride was doubly tragic, like the sick man who refuses the medicine because of his spite toward the hand that gives it.
Then I remember sitting with Cole. He too had lost something of great value. He thought his life was moving one way. Then it suddenly moved in another. There was much weeping. Much hurt. Countless conversations. Lots of second-guessing and doubting. But somehow, down there in the depths of his despair, Cole kept reading his Bible. He told the Lord that he hurt, that he didn’t understand. But then he waited. He went to older Chrisitians for counsel. And he listened to them. He did what they said to do. And little by little, Cole began to heal. Cole grew. Cole became more of a man, not less. His heart expanded, his posture strengthened.
I wonder how many people have chosen the path of angry athiesm because their pride could not endure some set of trials, like the fool who says in his heart there is no God. He’s a fool because he does not like what God assigns, and decides that he is wiser than God.
But apart from grace, none of us would endure even lesser trials. To bow the knee before God in the midst of tragedy, to tell him that you accept whatever he assigns, to absorb the loss while trusting that he is good and means the loss for your good, is this not the path of even greater vulnerability?! You are hurt, and now you are being asked to bow lower still? To surrender your instinct for self-protection? This requires nothing short of the humility of Jesus himself, the one who said, “Not my will, but yours be done.” Only the Spirit can give this.
If you are in the midst of a trial, there are only two paths that your heart can take. One seems reasonable and natural, but it leads to death. The other seems unreasonable and unnatural, because it requires you to bow lower still. It requires you stop protecting yourself and become even more vulnerable. But it alone leads to life. Which then will you take?