During the past year, I feel like the Lord has brought into my life (and into the lives of many close friends and family members) the opportunity to wait on Him. The waiting looks different for each of us… waiting for a health issue to be healed, waiting for a relationship to be mended, waiting for marriage, waiting for a baby, waiting for financial security, just to name a few…but in each case, the time frame that we would choose is vastly different than the one the Lord seems to have.
In my case, there are 2 specific things this year that I expected and really thought would be resolved in my life and the life of my family. In God’s good plan, He has chosen differently, and neither one of those has come to pass. Sometimes I have been patient, but most of the time, I regret to say that my first response when faced with an unexpected change of my plans (or the realization that what I wanted and prayed for isn’t happening) is, “Ummmm…hello, Lord…this is not in the plan…THE plan, remember? MY plan?”
I would even go so far as to say that in my own life, waiting has become a trial…an affliction that threatens to send my soul into doubt and despair. My faith feels weak and pride seeps into my mind until I feel overwhelmed at the enormity of it all.
Recently, there have been a few things that God has graciously put before me that have encouraged and challenged my heart, and humbled my proud spirit. I’m so thankful that even though I struggle with the same things over and over and over and over, my Lord is loving and patient and kind and generous. So unlike me.
A few weeks ago, my aunt Lana called and shared a passage of scripture with me — Habakkuk 2:3 (we were especially excited that the name of my blog appears in the Bible!!) Although I know that when you look at the verse in context, my little desires are really insignificant in comparison to Habakkuk’s vision, I was so encouraged by the good reminder that God’s sovereign plan is over all things, and His purposes will not be thwarted.
“For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries,
Wait for it;
For it will certainly come, it will not delay.”
Then, this past week, after a deep conversation with a dear friend, she forwarded an excerpt by Thomas Watson (a Puritan author) that was challenging to me…if I really desire to be like Christ, and to be who he wants me to be, then I will look at afflictions and trials not as terrible and overwhelming things, but as refining and purifying opportunities for God’s glory to be better seen through me! I’m including the whole thing, although it is long, because it was a wonderful encouragement to me, and I hope it will be to you, too. I put the thoughts that especially challenged me in bold.
(Thomas Watson, 1620-1686)
God’s children may sometimes be under sore afflictions.
They have no charter of exemption from trouble, in this
life. While the wicked are kept in sugar–the godly are
often kept in brine.
And, indeed, how could God’s power be seen in bringing
them out of trouble–if He did not sometimes bring them
into it? How could God wipe away the tears from their
eyes in heaven–if on earth they shed none?
Doubtless, God sees there is need that His children should
be sometimes in the house of bondage. “If need be, you
are in heaviness.” 1 Peter 1:6. The body sometimes needs
a bitter portion–more than a sweet one.
“You refined us like silver. You brought us into prison
and laid burdens on our backs.” Psalm 66:10, 11
Why does God bring His people into an afflicted state?
God gives affliction–to purge our corruption. The eye,
though a tender part–yet when infected, we put sharp
medicines into it, to purge out the disease. Just so,
though the people of God are dear to Him as the apple
of His eye–yet, when corruption begins to grow in them,
He will apply the sharp medicine of affliction—to purge
out the disease.
Affliction is God’s flail to beat off our husks.
Affliction is a means God uses to purge out
sloth, luxury, pride, and love of the world.
God’s furnace is not to consume–but to refine.
God gives us more affliction–that we may have less sin!
God also gives affliction to increase our graces. Grace
thrives most in the iron furnace. Grace in the saints is
often as fire hidden in the embers; affliction is the
bellows to blow it up into a flame!
God sanctifies all our afflictions. They shall not be
destructive punishments–but medicines! They shall
corrode and eat out the venom of sin! They shall polish
and refine our grace! The more the diamond is cut–the
more it sparkles. The more God afflicts us–the more
our graces cast a sparkling luster!
The stones which are cut out for a building, are first
hewn and squared. The godly are called “living stones.”
1 Peter 2:5. God hews and polishes them by affliction,
that they may be fit for the heavenly building.
Oh, that I may have the grace to accept affliction as God’s sanctifiying work in my life, and to praise Him for purging out the disease that sin brings.