The ABC’s of Wisdom: Building Character with Solomon - Trials
From Ashes to Gold
The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.
More than once lately I have had the opportunity to ponder why God allows some people to undergo prolonged disappointment. In one case, it is a prayer for a loved one that God has not answered, although the prayer has been offered again and again. In another case, it is a dream that seemed so close and then at the last second was snatched away. In another case, it is a broken friendship that cannot be repaired. In yet another case, it is a man in search of a job he cannot seem to find. In addition I have a good friend who has just been diagnosed with inoperable cancer.
What is the common thread? Why do the people of God suffer so many setbacks and difficulties? What lessons are we to learn from the disappointments we so often face?
Years ago I ran across a passage from the Old Testament that sheds light on this crucial question. Exodus 23 takes place at Mount Sinai just after God has given the Ten Commandments. Verses 27-28 describe what will happen as the Jews travel to the Promised Land: “I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way.” That sounds good to me. If I’m an Israelite and I hear the Lord talking like that, I’m ready to march because it sounds like the trip to the Promised Land is going to be a piece of cake.
But that’s not the whole story. Here are the next two verses: “But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land” (Exodus 23:29-30). Did you get that? God is promising ultimate victory, but He is also promising that it won’t come quickly. Why? Because if victory comes quickly, the Israelites wouldn’t be ready to handle it. Instead, He promises to work “little by little"-an inch here, a yard there, day by day leading His people and building their confidence in Him. Over time-and through many small battles-they will become strong enough to win the final victory.
That explains so much that happens to us. God works “little by little” to develop spiritual strength in us. If all our prayers were immediately answered, we’d soon take prayer for granted. We pray more, and we pray more fervently during a time of crisis because we know that if God doesn’t help us, we’re sunk.
When disappointment comes your way, keep four truths fixed in your mind: (1) Today’s disappointment is meant to prepare you for tomorrow’s victory. (2) Tomorrow’s victory will be sweeter because you had to fight harder to win it. (3) The Lord allows disappointment so that we will stay humble; He gives victory so that we will have hope. (4) He gives us just enough of each so that we might remember that, without His help, the Hivites would have wiped us out a long time ago.
Heavenly Father, in hard times I often do not know how to pray. May my trials lead me back to Your throne where I can find grace to help in the nick of time. Amen.
Name several occasions when God used disappointment to lead you to a deeper relationship with Him.
Could that be happening in some area of your life right now? Are you willing to trust God to finish His work at the right time and in the right way?
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