Of course, some blessings are obvious: family, friends, freedom. I am blessed to walk into a home where I am surrounded by three beautiful, healthy children. I am blessed with good health, with a job that I enjoy. I am blessed with a Heavenly Father who lavishes me with love, grace, and mercy.
But as we enter this thanksgiving season, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my trials. I am beyond thankful for the pain and suffering that I have experienced over the last few years.
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. James 1:2 NLT
It seems so counter-intuitive to rejoice over trials. And yet, the verses following begin to explain why we should be thankful for our trials
For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:3-4 NLT
I lived a very blessed life the first 35 years of my life. And then, calamity struck. I found myself drowning, mired in heart ache and devastation. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to follow the Savior again.
And then my Father swept in and became real. He picked me up and began to put my life back together. He lavished me with love and grace. And he promised that he would give me a future greater than anything I could ever imagine.
Oh, how faithful he is! I’ve walked through the fire, and I have learned how blessed I am to experience all kinds of different trials!
Why do I count it joy when I face trials?
God is near. In the deepest, most painful days of my life, God was near. He was real. The days were characterized by intimacy with my Savior that I had never before known.
God promises that in our pain, in our brokenness, he will be near. Never before had I heard his sweet whispers, comforting me, directing me, encouraging me, the way I did in my brokenness. Never before had I experienced him walking so closely with me, being everything I needed exactly when I needed it. Never before had he been as real to me as he was in the darkest days of my life.
The Lordis close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. Psalm 34:18
My faith grows. Walking through the fire showed me just how weak my faith was, how quick I was to turn and walk away from my Savior. The longer I journeyed through the wilderness, however, the more I saw his constant faithfulness, his never-ending provision. The more I experienced his tender mercies, the more my faith grew.
The walk through the fire has changed me, changed my faith. I have a confidence in my Savior, in his provision for me. I can release every fear, every pain, and trust my Father to redeem them all. I know that when difficult seasons come, he will faithfully carry me through.
These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. 1 Peter 1:7 NLT
I realize how much I need God. When I first began this journey, I wasn’t sure I wanted God…or needed him. But, as the days passed and God gently called me to him, I began to realize how much I needed him.
I need my Savior every day. I need his love and his grace. I need his wisdom and his direction. I need him to give my life meaning and purpose. I need him to open doors, to lead me into the future he has for me. I need him to mold me into his image, to make me more loving and compassionate. I need him to live my life through me.
My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees. Psalm 119:71
I see the true condition of my heart. I gave my life to Christ at the age of six, and I have very few memories of life without God. I have spent my entire life walking with him, seeking to know him and walk in obedience.
And sometimes living such a life causes pride. If I’m honest, I wasn’t certain I needed forgiveness. As I walked through the painful days of devastation, I came face-to-face with the true condition of my heart—a heart filled with pride. I was horrified to realize how I had looked down on others, had such a judgmental attitude toward them. I came to understand the capacity of sin within my heart.
I was humbled. I was truly a sinner in need of a Savior.
Remember how the Lordyour God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands. Deuteronomy 8:2
I gain the opportunity to share God’s love with others. When my life fell apart, I begged God not to let my pain be in vain. And how faithful he has been! To see the doors of ministry swing wide open at every turn is so amazing, so humbling.
God was such a comfort to me, and now I am blessed with the opportunity to share that comfort with others. To take the lessons I’ve learned and encourage others, to see God use me to offer a word of hope to someone who is hurting…there is truly no greater blessing!
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4
I am gaining eternal rewards. God promises that when we endure suffering and trials, he is doing a work in us far greater than anything we could imagine. He promises thatour suffering is actually renewing us day by day. He promises that our trials are accomplishing an eternal work, one that far outweighs any suffering we do here on this earth.
We often live for instant gratification. But, living for eternal rewards is far more rewarding.
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.1 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT
As the storm calms around me and I return to a life of normalcy, I sometimes long for the difficult days—days where I know my Savior will meet me, love me, comfort me. I sometimes miss feeling as if everything has been ripped away—because I know that the one thing I truly need is him. I sometimes miss being desperate, needing to hear his quiet voice reassuring me at every turn. I miss the intimacy that I experienced in the most painful days. I treasure the memories that carry me through the mundane days of life.
Are you walking through the fire? Are you enduring suffering, trials far greater than you ever imagined? Count it all joy because God will work in you and through you.
Dena Johnson is a busy single mom of three kids who loves God passionately. She delights in taking the everyday events of life, finding God in them, and impressing them on her children as they sit at home or walk along the way (Deuteronomy 6:7). Her greatest desire is to be a channel of God’s comfort and encouragement. You can read more of Dena’s experiences with her Great I AM on her blog Dena's Devos.