The following was originally written on June 08, 2008. I was in the midst of a 6 month recovery from a shoulder surgery that seemed to be going on forever. Though the article is nearly six years old, the lessons remain. I re-post it now as I rebuild my website for the benefit of anyone who is going through tough times and as a fresh reminder to myself. I believe that it is an article worth chewing on.
As I've gone through the last five months of challenges, many people have come along side to be used by God in my life. This got me to thinking, whose trials are these? Really, who is the testing for? I may be the central figure here, but that is simply from my perspective. So as I step back and look at the big picture I can see that there are a great many characters in this drama. It would be interesting to take a slice of the picture, one act in this play as it were, and see it from many characters and their focal point, each at the center of the scene.
I went through the surgery, the physical therapy, the financial crisis, the family trauma, and so on. My story is fairly well documented here. But what of the others who have been involved along the way? How about the family members? What about the friends? And the donors? The prayer warriors had a large part in all of this. Let's take a look at a few in a purely fictional sense.
A friend stops by to say hello. The visit lasts 1-1/2 hours and leaves a gift card for the grocery store. What has gone into this visit? What did the friend consider and what were the circumstances of the friend's life at the time? The friend had to make conscious decisions to give of time, resources and self. How much time was was the friend willing to give? Was it open ended or was there a limit, either real or artificially set? How much of self was the friend willing to give to listen to someone else's problems or to just sit and be a friend? Was the friend willing to get me out of the house to do something? How much of the friend's resources was the friend willing to share? Was it extra or was it sacrificial?
A person prays for me. What does this involve? Is it private or corporate? Is it a quick shout to God or is it an emotional plea to God? Is it one time or on a regular prayer list? Is it at a regular prayer time or at any time throughout the day? Is it once and done or more frequently? How much time is one willing to give?
An offering is taken up and someone donates to the cause. What is the amount to be given? Is it from what's extra or is it sacrificial? Will something else actually be given up in order to look after my needs? Will it be taken from savings? Will it be money that would have gone to another cause if not for mine? Will it be a one time gift or will there be more to follow?
Family members see a need and step in to help out. Is it out of a sense of obligation or out of love and compassion? Is there pressure to participate because of the rest of the family? What about their own family? What about other family members who have needs? Will it look like favoritism to help out one family member while not another?
The examples may be fictional, but the circumstances are very real. And while the considerations for each example may be a bit different, they all have a few things in common. The point of view for each person is from the center of the person's world. The individual's current life is going to determine the outcome. Is there stress or chaos present? Is there a lack of resources? Is there relational issues? What is the attitude toward the recipient? What other current demands are there on time and resources? In what state are the emotions and mind?
Most importantly, perhaps, is the current spiritual state of each participant. The condition of one's prayer life and closeness to God will affect the level of accurate involvement. The willingness of a person to be obedient to God will also affect the involvement. The level of trust a person has in God will likewise determine how sacrificial the person may be.
If a person is willing to seek God with the question of if an how to participate, the person then has to follow through to make it a reality. The person has to be willing to be fully obedient to doing what God instructs. The obedience may involve sacrifice of time, self, or resources. Perhaps all of the above.
So who is the trial really for? The trial is simply one of many that are interwoven as many threads of a fabric, and depending on who is viewing the fabric, the picture can be quite different. To the close family member, it may simply be a view of whose turn it is to need help. To a church family member, it may be a view of whose turn it is to have a trial that will build faith. To someone across country who reads this on the internet, it may become another point on the prayer list for a period of time. For another it may all be an encouragement to see how God has worked through so many. To someone else it may be an occurrence that has brought the reality of a living God to light, perhaps contributing to the salvation of a soul.
What are the trials for? How about the challenge to be doers of the word and not hearers only as taught in the book of James? How about the biblical lesson that to know to do good and to not do it is a sin? That is a sin of omission . Sometimes we need to learn how to step out beyond ourselves to serve God, stepping beyond our own comfort level. It is only as we learn to step outside of our own comfort level that we can learn to depend on God and His grace to see us through various situations. This can involve the giving of ourselves in a loving relationship, the giving of our time, or the giving of our resources. The challenge can be to cut into my valued savings, or to not buy that new item, for the purpose of helping another. I may not be comfortable stopping by to visit someone knowing that there is really nothing I can do to help with the actual struggle. All the while the issue God is trying to resolve is the feeling of loneliness so He can refocus the person in need onto another issue.
So who are these trial really for? They are for everyone that comes in contact with the issue from whatever angle that may be. In every case we are being asked to be obedient to the call of God. When we are inspired to participate, how do we respond? The answer is a reflection of our relationship with God. Are we serving the living God or are we serving our self-interests? Is God on the throne or is the self-will being elevated above the will of God? Each of us is having our faithfulness and obedience tested to some degree. Equally difficult may be to not participate if that is truly the leading of God. One person may be learning to put down pride while another may be learning to act in humility. The place I am putting my trust may be revealed to me, for better or worse.
There are two sides to this coin. On the one side, I am a subject being tested. On the other side, I am a tool being used by God in the testing of others. My difficulties are merely different threads in the fabric that are seen from different points of view. At the present time of my life, I may be a little more focused on my own threads due to the intensity of the situation. In times past and in times to come, I will be focusing on other threads more closely. The situation does not absolve me from focusing on other threads at the current time. Indeed, I must likewise be obedient to the leading of God in reaching out to others in whatever capacity He directs. The tests are for each of us and they are ongoing. How are we going to respond?