It’s difficult to believe that it’s been three months since I have posted to this blog. I’ve been attending to somewhat of a new calling these past few months, and it’s one I didn’t want or particularly like: caring for my mother. That sounds cold, doesn’t it? Unloving? It’s difficult for me to say it out loud, much less type it for all the world to see. But it is true. I don’t want or like this new role. I just want to say, “No thank you, God!”
It is not because I don’t love my mother, nor because I am not concerned for her welfare. It is because I find it much more fun (and therefore desirable) to help people find their niche to serve, to provide spiritual direction to those seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus, to offer prayer ministry to those who are desperate for the healing touch of Jesus. It’s hard to ignore the fact that I have a selfish streak that has been rearing its ugly head of late.
So what do we do when forced into a trial that we don’t want? Well, most of us try to get out of it. “No thank you, God.” If that doesn’t work, whining may bring a temporary satisfaction of sorts (nevermind that it holds far less satisfaction for those who are forced to listen!) Ignoring it is generally unproductive. I speak from experience–I tried all those. Eventually I turned to Scripture for some enlightenment.
I’ve always thought the references in the Bible to rejoicing while suffering through trials are a little odd. The apostle Paul seems to have gloried in his suffering! Personally, I don’t like suffering, so I find it difficult to rejoice in trials–particularly when I’m having to do something I really don’t want to do. But when I recently read James’ perspective on enduring trials, I found encouragement…
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. -James 1:2-4
This “trial” has certainly tested my faith! I’ve returned time and again to praying through psalms that expressed my frustration, echoed my confusion, or cried out on my behalf for strength in the midst of the storm. Yet even now I am beginning to see that I’ve grown through this trial. Exercising my faith by turning to scripture–to Jesus–has in fact produced a certain steadfastness, just as the apostle James suggests. I no longer dread the visits to see Mom. I have found that praying as I drive to the assisted living facility helps me to be calm and steady, even in the face of her anger over her situation. It’s easier to extend grace to those who have their hands full caring for all these aging adults in various stages of dementia.
So what if, rather than fighting this trial, I embrace it? What if I sit quietly before God and, rather than say “No thank you,” I ask if he is calling me into something new? A new ministry, a new way of serving? Perhaps I will find joy in simply knowing that I am yielding my selfish desire to do something more fun and desirable in favor of his calling to do something that looks a little more like the Suffering Servant who washes feet.
And, if James is correct (and I’m betting that he is!), I will find that I have lacked nothing in the process.
Amen and amen!