No one is without trials, adversities, struggles, and losses. Our lives often look to us like the scribblings of a child who is just learning to write—nothing but crooked lines without meaning. The crooked lines in our lives are the common trials, conflicts, disappointments, and hard knocks that beset all of us at times. We may feel that they beset us all of the time.
Saint Peter reminds us in his first epistle, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you.” I guess we should be surprised if everything in our lives is going too smoothly.
In the midst of such hardships and misfortunes, I desperately want to pull aside the curtain and find out why such things are going on. What did I do to deserve this? What does God have in mind by taking me through such things? Are they simply random happenings? I admit that I am spiritually nearsighted. I can't see beyond the trials. They are too much with me, I take them personally. That's when trust has to kick in.
I tend to recite so glibly, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). If I really believe that, what seems to me to be so obviously bad or evil must be part of God's process of somehow transforming me into the image of His Son. It is not for punishment but for testing. I need to determine to trust God's goodness.
I must look upon irritations then as invitations to grow, just as sand in the shell of an oyster is working toward a pearl. The obstacles I face must really be hidden opportunities of some sort. When I ask God about them, so often He seems to be silent. That's when I must refuse to trust my human ears and listen to the ears of my heart. God is not noisy when He works but that doesn't mean He is not working in my life.
Progress in spiritual matters happens through struggle in the same way that a butterfly-in-process needs both time and struggle to achieve the transformation from a worm into a creature of beauty and flight. If I try to cut short that process, I will abort its life. If I resist God's sandpaper work in my life, or insist on shortening the process before He is finished working in me, I will miss the purpose of His process.
It is said that God writes straight with crooked lines. An artist draws beautiful works of art with crooked lines. God didn't take Joseph in the Old Testament story directly from being a youthful dreamer to the highest position in a nation by one straight line. There were pit and prison experiences and many other crooked lines before God's process was accomplished for his life, for a nation, for his family's rescue, for the national heritage that God was effecting through Joseph's trials.
Without question, God is up to something in each of our lives through the seemingly crooked lines He is drawing in them. Peter says that the end result is “sharing the sufferings of Christ” and that we are to “keep on rejoicing so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation.” The word “exultation” translates into big time celebration, whooping it up, whirling about, dancing in circles, expressing extreme joy and elation.
That's going to take some practice!