Perseverance in spiritual life
On 30 June 2012 is spent some time in prayer thanking Lord for helping me and our family to complete half of the year this year. Also I was reflecting on about 300 days since our daughter Hosanna was called to eternal home. Along with that, I heard a tragic news of a 22 year old girl going to be with the Lord due to Leukemia. Another relative who was 82 years also went to be with the Lord. Really, these thoughts overwhelmed me. Also, the world around us becomes more corrupt, immoral, violent, oppressive, abusive, and chaotic. In this context, I remember the word of St. Paul:
“For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.“ (II Cor 5:1-4)
Life with groans and burdens
Paul was waiting for the heavenly dwelling. I think, F.B. Meyer wrote that he was waiting for the Heavenly chariot to take him home. The chariot could come in the form of sickness, or accident or any form. In the world, a Christian is not exempt for pain or tears or suffering. I am not insulated or isolated from the common things in the world.
Lord Jesus Christ prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39). The cross was the only difficult process by which the redemption of the world could be accomplished. If there were other easier options, the Heavenly Father could have chosen that for His Son. If God did not provide an easier option for the Son of God, I cannot expect a bed of roses in my Christian life journey.
Each and every Christian is taken through a difficult and complicated process. The process need not be uniform and same for all. For each person the process is unique – custom made. It is futile to compare me with the other person. Each person has to take up his/her cross to follow him. As I was reflecting, I wondered what if get sick and get admitted in the hospital? Yes, God will take me through the process that would shape me.
The faith of a Christian is not a cheap commodity. It is precious and worth more than gold and silver. St. Peter wisely said that our faith is refined like gold (I Peter 1:7) Refining the gold in the fire, done under the masterly scrutiny of the goldsmith is not simple. A Christian has to go through the pain that refines his/her faith. The furnace, heat and hit from the hammer are intensive and also intentional. If pain is not beneficial for me, God will not allow pain in my life. It is certainly, for my progress, growth and welfare. So, I do not rebel against the benefactors of pain and suffering.
The process in the furnace is not only painful, it is time consuming. The fire becomes warmer and warmer until the gold becomes malleable. This appropriate malleability would help the goldsmith to impose the design he desires. However, if the goldsmith is not careful, the gold could be overheated and even burnt to ashes. The goldsmith has to be alert, agile and watchful. So is our Lord under whose direct supervision I am shaped. “Caraway is not threshed with a sledge, nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin; caraway is beaten out with a rod, and cumin with a stick. Grain must be ground to make bread; so one does not go on threshing it forever. The wheels of a threshing cart may be rolled over it, but one does not use horses to grind grain. All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.” (Isaiah 28: 27-29) His plan for me is wonderful and his wisdom in manifested in my life as it unfolds each day of my life.
The Lord is not late by even a fraction of second or ahead by a fraction of a second.
The process is also expensive. Refining is not a cheap process but resources intensive process. It has to be done in a special place with proper furnace and enough space. It is also expensive in terms of emotional energy involved in a life of a Christian. Pain and suffering is not intellectual or philosophical discourse. They involve the physical body and emotions. Such process could be emotionally draining. David and his men wept when they found their wives and children were taken away by Amalekites. They wept so much they did not have physical strength or emotional energy to weep any more. (I Samuel 30:4)
When going through the process of pain and suffering, my relationships also suffer and of course, refined. There is a need to seek help by being humble. Unable to do all things by ourselves, I have to depend on others. Sometimes, I burden others by sharing our pain and sufferings. In the Body of Christ (Church) there are other members who rush to help me.
No other way
I realize that God allows us to go through difficult times, only when there is no other option. The path he takes us is beneficial for us. However, it needs deeper spiritual life, unwavering faith, sound knowledge of God and unconditional surrender to go through the process voluntarily and joyfully. How apt is the words of James? “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1: 2-4)