1 Peter 4:12
"Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you."
I love this verse. I want to imprint it on my forehead. I want to wear it on a t-shirt. I want it to be my life mantra and motto.
When times get tough, don't be shocked. When the waters rise and the tide starts pulling you in a direction you find fearful, don't be surprised. Don't moan and complain and question why. Expect the unexpected.
But....I love when the Bible says "but". It always means to wait, there is more news to come. Don't stop now, continue to hear from God - he is ready and waiting to speak to you. "But" is the open door for him to enter into further teaching and communing.
Verse 13 says, "But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed."
Beautiful. Enlightening. Reassuring. Calming. Soothing. Inspiring.
Our suffering is not in vain. Our suffering is not in solitude. Our suffering is divine. We are co-heirs with Christ. We are co-heirs in his suffering here on this earth and then someday in heaven with him for eternity. It is a magnificent truth. It is a sobering promise.
Eternity is so hard to comprehend. When I attempt to understand it my brain feels as if it is turning to mush and all my thought processes come to halt. I can't wrap my mind around forever. I'm human and I look at time in a finite, limited way. I see time in the form of minutes, days, months and years. To imagine living without an attached time frame is incomprehensible. Yet, that is the promise we are given by God - and God is true to his word. We will dwell with him FOREVER in HEAVEN! I no longer try to understand how that will work or what it will look like. I know it will be glorious and that is enough to know while I'm here on this earth.
While I'm here I am given an amazing opportunity. This is my one chance to show my faith and to live it out in difficult circumstances. Someday I will be in heaven where peace is unlimited and suffering is no more, but I'm not there yet. Today, and in this part of my life, I am here on earth where sin abounds and pain is real. It is in this place that I can live out my faith in spite of imperfection and in spite of trials. This is my chance to show God how much I trust him. This is my chance to stand firm in my faith even when my own human will is weak. I only have this one chance. Each moment spent in worry or anxiety is a moment lost - a moment that I will never get back. Each trial that I face resting in the almighty arms of my father is another moment to live my faith. Each trial that I face on human strength is a precious opportunity lost.
The trial that I am facing today is just one of many that will come in this part of my life. We are all given many opportunities to have faith. We are all given many trials. Thank God for the many trials, because we don't always grab hold of faith on the first try. Sometimes it takes many trials before we learn where to rest. But God keeps giving us more chances, more opportunities, more moments to find peace in him in the midst of a storm. As the waves of life beat against us, we have a place to curl up and hunker down. We have a place to seek shelter.
The storm isn't pleasant. Our lives become like a rained out picnic on the fourth of July - the plans we made get washed away by the mother of all thunderstorms. The provisions we bought, the food we prepared and the games we planned all go to waste. We have to change course. Maybe we can move the party inside? Maybe we can reschedule? Maybe the whole thing gets called off. No matter what happens everyone complains about the storm. But we shouldn't lose hope from changed plans or storms in our lives. The party can still go on. Good memories can still be formed. New experiences can be shared. If you get angry and discouraged you might miss out on something special God had planned. The storm might have been his way of getting you to take his route. Don't shy away from experiencing what he has in mind.
God is forming in the lives of his children a beautiful tapestry. Like any great artist, he isn't revealing the final product just yet. Where would the fun be in that? Instead he is giving us a little peak of the back of the tapestry. He is showing us the different threads. Right now it only looks like a bunch of colors and twists and turns. We can't see what it is forming on the other side. The sneak peek might look like an utter mess instead of something beautiful. This is where God is really getting to work. He has something gorgeous being designed on the other side of that cluster of threads. He is pulling the threads taut. He is making sure they are secure. I imagine those threads aren't enjoying it one bit. On the contrary, they are stretched to the breaking point, holding on for dear life. But God knows how hard he can pull before they break. He knows how much slack is left and how much pressure he needs to still apply to complete his picture. The thread thinks it can't take anymore, but it doesn't know its own strength.
As we watch the master do his work we won't always understand why the threads of our own life have to be pulled so tight and why it looks like such an utter disaster on the back of the tapestry. We'll often wonder what he is working on and how he is going to use a particular color, string or fabric.
In the moments of your life that you feel like that string on the verge of breaking take comfort in the peace only God can provide. Take shelter in his goodness and his love. He is the master creator and he is working out a masterpiece in your life. He never promises us that the process of forming your life's tapestry will be pain-free. He warns us of quite the opposite. Remember 1 Peter? He warns us that it is going to be trying. But he knows how much we can take. He knows how much he can pull us and stretch us. He knows the design is he creating.
Rest in him. And get ready, because before you know it the tapestry will be completed and your chance to rest in faith while God performs his handiwork will come to an end. Then you will be in eternal peace, face to face with the one who carried you through each fiery trial and each woven thread. And the tapestry will be glorious.