Response in Trials
I don’t believe it is an overstatement to say that 2020 hasn’t gone the way most people had hoped. Whatever rosy-colored lenses people may have had hitting the year, looking forward to a new decade, have likely been turned grey by the various trials and tragedies that have come in 2020. In the midst of these trials, have you been able to assess your response in trials, remember our blessings in Christ, and reconsider the frailty of life?
Suffice to say, 2020 has been a brutal year for many people. The first couple months were relatively normal, with the news reporting on a new virus overseas. However, once mid-March hit, the United States had to reckon with a novel virus which was scary to the minds of many. In the subsequent months, much of the country entered a period of lockdown and uncertainty. Writing from a Californian perspective, frustrations from the lockdown were temporarily relieved when the state started re-opening; however, that optimism was crushed when virus cases increased and re-opening measures were halted. In addition to grappling with a pandemic, the later half of the year has found California dealing with wildfires of historic proportions, record heatwaves, rolling blackouts, and the implementation of far stricter economic re-opening measures. Additionally, the past few months have seen significant civic and political unrest throughout the country. Furthermore, the unexpected deaths of young, well-off celebrities such as Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman have reminded people of the uncertainty and frailty of life despite fame and fortune. It appears as if the sending of “thoughts and prayers” have become so routine this year that they have lost meaning.
Moving to the personal sphere, many people have expressed frustration with thwarted plans and ambitions. Artist have been unable to perform, families have been unable to go on vacations, college new graduates have had to deal with a tough job market made tougher. The list goes on and on, and it appears many people’s only ready expectation is for more disappointments to unfold.
In the midst of multiple hard circumstances and the thwarting of personal plans, how have you responded? Have you grown closer to the Lord and all the more readily found your trust and satisfaction in Him, or have you been left frustrated and discontent with failed ambitions? Admittedly, many plans I had for this year have been changed. Hopes to frequent various live music venues and vacation to the East Coast and elsewhere have been discarded. Social activity has been modified, and goals for potential new hobbies have been adjusted. It was in the midst of these changing plans wherein I could see how I valued them. I was disappointed to be sure, and, admittedly, maybe too disappointed at certain points.
However, that disappointment vanished when I was reminded of the sweet promises and blessings Christians have in Christ.
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will" – Ephesians 1:3-5
As Christians, we have been blessed with the greatest blessing of all, reconciliation to and relationship with God through Jesus Christ. From that blessing flows many others rooted in that reality, such as the privilege of praying to God and being blessed with spiritual gifts for serving the Church. Whereas the world is prone to uncertainty and stress in trying times, we have peace unknown to the world that comes from praying to and trusting in sovereign God.
“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7
Not only have we been blessed spiritually in Christ, but Scripture teaches that we can trust in God to take care of the necessities of our lives when we seek Him first.
"But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." – Matthew 6:30-33
One of the sweetest blessings God has given his people is the joy rooted in Him. Psalm 4 captures it beautifully.
“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” – Psalm 4:7
Besides having bountiful food and drink, the abounding of grain and wine in an agrarian society was reflective of economic prosperity. This simple Psalm states that we have more joy rooted in God than others have when wealth and resources are plentiful.
Additionally, in this trying year, have you reckoned fresh with the frailty of life? Scripture is vivid on this reality.
"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.'" – James 4:13-15
“O Lord, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.” – Psalm 144:3-4
“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” – Luke 12:16-21
Life is fleeting, tomorrow is not guaranteed, and we don’t take physical wealth with us into eternity. Are you numbering your days? Are you living every day for God’s glory? Christian, let us not take for granted the time we have. Let us strive to live every day loving God with all our being and our neighbor as ourself. Let us strive to labor in church ministry, evangelize to non-Christians, and edify Christians. Let us be rich towards God and lay up treasures in heaven.
How have you responded to the disappointments and trials of this year? Have you let them weigh you down unreservedly, or have you utilized those circumstances to assess your response in such times? Let us never forget the many blessings we have in Christ nor take for granted our time on earth. Let us live every moment of every day satisfied in Christ, striving to make an eternal impact with our time on earth.