My roommate Alida sat across from me in our living room one Tuesday morning, both of our noses buried in our Bibles. (DO NOT be fooled, friend, into thinking this is normal for me. I'm the worst at any kind of planned quiet time, so this particular morning was a miracle.) I don't remember what exactly I was wrestling with that day, but I do vividly remember something Alida brought up. (The following is an artistic expression of our conversation, not the word-for-word thing.)
RACHEL: blahblahblah stressssss blahblah
ALIDA: Hey, Rach, guess what I just learned? Did you know that in this passage I'm reading the Hebrew definition of "trial" is different than what we think of as "trial"?
RACHEL: Tell me more.
ALIDA: We think trials are being on the stand before God, and He's coming after us for messing up. But actually, it's just a test. And tests are just a regurgitation of information we already know, right? So trials are about proving we know something we already know.
RACHEL: HOLY !%$& ALIDA THAT'S BRILLIANT.
Last week, the practical application of that winter morning conversation hit full force. I saw with wide-open eyes the gift an unexpected trial can be.
Here's the thing: Trial is another word for test. When you take a test, you are (hopefully) just applying knowledge you already have. Tests are assessments of proficiency and knowledge. The trip-up, I think, is this: we hear that analogy and we think when God tests us, He's standing over us with a big red pen and if we don't pass the test we're screwed. Which makes the whole trial/test analogy stupid and terrible. What makes it BEAUTIFUL is this:
The test is not about proving anything at all to God. He already knows what we are and are not capable of, and He promises in Scripture to not tempt us beyond what we can bear. I think He uses trials to let us prove to ourselves that we have grown; that the seeds we have seen (or not seen) Him plant are beginning to bear fruit. And that, friend, is one of the sweetest gifts I can imagine.
I only say all this because I'm living it. A curveball was thrown last week; the kind of curveball that incited instant panic. But directly on the heels of that panic came a wave of peace. And I practically heard the whisper: My girl, be still. You know me. You know my character and you know I can provide anything and everything. You know I love you. Be still.
By the grace of a Savior that loves me immeasurably, I was able to say, "Oh. Okay, cool." Which was followed quickly by, "THIS IS THE BEST FEELING EVER, WOW GOD YOU SO GOOD."
Here is what I know I know, now:
1) Visible circumstances are never the whole story. God is busy doing His thing, always.
2) Facts are not the same as truth. Facts change. Truth does not.
3) God is fully capable of and fully intent on providing for my every need. Even the needs I am not aware of.
4) God is good. So sweetly, gently, mightily good.
This is how to become stronger. This is how God grows those fruits of His Spirit. Just like a seed needs seasons to change and rain to come in order to grow, you need seasons and rainstorms to see growth in yourself. And PRAISE BE to a God that gives you a front row seat to see His work in your life. That's how you know He loves you, friend.