Well folks, we’re coming to the end of yet another year. May I just say an unenthusiastic “Phew” right here? The words “difficult” “gut wrenching” and “drama filled” describe 2011 for me.
We began the year, or rather ended last year, with a phone call from some unhappy people. This call came on Christmas. Yes siree, Bob. What a great gift! On January 2nd, after trying to help these folks, they called to say “Goodbye.” Yeah…bummer. Oh, and the kicker? January 2nd is our wedding anniversary! Not a great way to start the year.
The year got progressively worse after that.
Our attendance is down, our offerings are down and there’s a sect in our community who, if they are reading this now, is rejoicing. But, I’m rejoicing, too, so it’s okay! No, I’m not rejoicing that those dear people have left our church and are still displeased with us. Instead, I’m rejoicing at how this is molding me. I’ve shed more tears this year than I have in all of the others combined. I’ve felt more forsaken and alone than ever, and I live closer to my home than I have in years. I’ve been so depressed and defeated, that I have sat on the floor and cried till there were no tears left. I’ve dealt with anger, guilt, discontentment, panic, fear and grudges. I know, that’s a lot of sin, isn’t it? Sorry to taint you in this way. You know me, I gotta be real. BUT WAIT! Before you click away, let me point out the words “dealt with”. Past tense. I deal with these issues as they come, I don’t harbor these emotions and allow them to fester. I take my anger (after venting it on someone I trust) to the Lord. I get forgiveness. I move on.
I suppose a turning point came when we had Bro. Tim Green preach our revival a few weeks ago. He told my husband that the Lord cares less about what’s going on in our church – souls being saved or not, attendance high or low, money or no money – and He cares more about what is happening to us as individuals. How are we growing through these experiences? What is God teaching us? That was something to ponder! God had certainly been working on me through all of this! I’ve had emotions that I didn’t think I could have! It was as though the Refiner had turned up the heat and all of the dross, the worthless trash, was coming to the top.
Another encouragement came from my husband. As he sat next to me in my puddle of tears, he told me that at that moment, I was glorifying God.
“Huh? How was God being glorified by my tears, by my desire to quit?” I asked in shaky voice.
“Because you aren’t quitting. Each step you take to live for Christ, when you are suffering, is bringing glory to God. It’s easy to live for God when life is easy. That’s nothing. That doesn’t glorify Him. But to keep going during suffering, now that says ‘love’.” He said.
Wow. What a thought! My suffering, which in the grand scheme of life may not be that great, can bring glory to God! Now that’s worth living for! That’s something to buoy one’s spirits! I don’t have to be a missionary to China to bring glory to Him! I don’t have to have two ladies events each month to glorify Him! I don’t have to be popular to bring glory to Him! I just have to endure hardness, to be a good soldier for Jesus, and His name is honored and glorified! William Carey is known today as a great man of faith, but he was just a man. He was known to have said, “I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.” You know, I can do that, too.
I. can. plod.
Finally, peace came when I said, “Yes, Lord, I will stay in this fire. I will embrace the flames as they melt me down. I will submit as You remove the dross, as You mold me and shape me. It hurts, Lord, and sometimes, I just want to run away. But I will not run. I will stay in this furnace.”
God is allowing these trials in our lives to mold us. He’s teaching me patience, how to love those who will not return my love, meekness, joy in suffering, holding my tongue, and a host of other things.
Yes, it’s been a rough year. I sigh heavily and wipe my brow as I look back upon the rows that have been plowed. How thick the muck was in some places, the footprints are deep. I look forward to this next year with hopes of a great harvest. No, it may not be of people. Our attendance may stay low. And it may not bear the fruit of financial gain. It might bring forth fruit that we cannot see until we get to Heaven. I may stay in this furnace another entire year. It may get even hotter and more uncomfortable, I don’t know. But, by God’s grace, I will stay. And someday, I will come forth as gold.