“When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders but welcome them as friends!” (James 1:2 JB Phillips Translation)
If we are to finish strong, we need to have God’s perspective on suffering and trials that “crowd” into our lives. They come in all sizes and shapes. Sometimes they “crowd into (our) lives” as JB Philips translated James 1:2. Our instinctive reaction to any intruder entering our home whether it be human, animal or insect is do all we can to get rid of them! That’s how we instinctively treat difficulties that we face.
What would be the epidemy of an unwelcome intruder into your home? A rat? No, how about a giant African pouch rat? Get him out of here as soon as possible! Where there’s one there is sure to be more. Disgusting! First of all, I feel the same way. No argument there. But did you realize that there is a large rat from Africa that has become a special friend of human beings and has saved countless people from loss of life or limb?
One such African Pouch Rat, named Magawa, in his five-year career of service found 71 landmines and 38 items of unexploded ordinances in Cambodia, according to APOPO, the mine-clearing non-governmental organization that trained him. Magawa is much larger than an average pet rat, but still light enough to never set off a landmine by walking over it, the way human de-miners might. That advantage led this organization to train him and other rats to detect the scent of explosive chemicals used in landmines and point them out to handlers.
He has been trained to ignore scrap metal lying about and he detects to the landmine’s exact location. PDSA says, “He’s so fast at finding landmines that he can clear an area the size of a tennis court in 30 minutes-something that might take a human four days using a metal detector!” (information derived from CNN vbhtgwire By Rob Picheta)
Isn’t our immediate response to when suffering, a trial, a test, or a difficulty comes into our lives kind of like we have just seen a giant rat show up right in the middle of our living room! We wouldn’t ever welcome an intruder like this into our home! What form do these intruders come in? They come as ugly as GIANT RATS showing up uninvited and unwelcomed! A financial stress or loss…a job stress or job/business loss…physical suffering... illness…a marriage crisis or divorce…a loss of a friendship…a separation between family members that cannot be resolved…and even current government decisions that are threatening the freedoms we once took for granted.
A book I highly recommend is “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows” by the late Paul Billheimer. It has really helped me gain a more positive and hopeful (biblical!) view of suffering. He writes, “It seems that God cannot fully decentralize fallen man, even though born again, sanctified or filled with the Holy Spirit, without suffering. Watchman Nee says that we never learn anything new about God except through diversity…There is no way that Christlike character can be formed within man without suffering because he cannot be decentralized otherwise. If he will not suffer, if he determines to evade it, if he refuses to all the life of nature and of self to go to the cross, to that extent he remains self-centered, unbroken, and therefore unChristlike. ‘Whole, unbruised, unbroken men are of little use to God.’ (J.R. Miller)” (pgs 46, 47 Don’t Waste Your Sorrows.)
Back to that verse, “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders but welcome them as friends!” I can only do that if I believe that (fill in the blank) has been allowed into my life now to produce something very good, something I would learn about Him in no other way. The suffering can be even considered as a helpful “friend,” a partner in me fulfilling my greatest purpose for this life, to become more like Christ and prepare me for eternity with Him.
Dear Father, thank You for the things You that have allowed into my life, the hard things, the things I would never have invited in. Thank You that I can even see these things as my “friends” that really are working for your very good purpose, in clearing out the hidden, unseen “landmines” and “unexploded ordinances” within me. These need to be “sniffed out” by You so they can be and removed from my soul!
Written by Jamie Bohnett. Contact the Author: firstname.lastname@example.org