I have often prayed something along the lines of “God make me have more faith in you and your plan for me.” However, I realized today that praying for faith is like praying for patience. How do you get patience? By experiencing things that are difficult and thereby forcing you to have patience with the situation. I am certain many of you have experienced this one time or another.
Many of you know that I have been through a lot of trials lately. I had a nervous breakdown in June and was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. (Yeah maybe I share too much… Oh well.) Presten was out of work for nearly 6 months. Then he found an awesome job!! The pay was great, the atmosphere was serene and he felt confident. I don’t know what happened – why the *ahem* woman fired him – but she did. Oh and about two weeks before Christmas, too. Such a nice woman. Grr… (Forgiveness still pending.) In addition to all that, my health has been a roller coaster. One day I feel great and happy, the next I feel distraught and paranoid. Yes, my friend who loves me, I AM on medication, and have a great doctor who manages my meds. He says it is all “normal” for me. Yeah, like me and normal are friends at all!! Riiiight…
So anyway… Through all this I have prayed “God grant me faith in you.” and “God give me peace.” But today I realized he is teaching me faith and granting me peace through experience. See I believe that is how God works. Everything is lesson. Pray for patience – get TAUGHT patience. Pray for peace, faith, love, joy… really almost anything and he teaches it to you through your experiences. Perhaps some of you knew this already but it’s a revelation to me.
So is this a good thing? Is this method mean, unkind or uncaring? Why does He not just GIVE us these skills. Why when we pray are we not surrounded by a sense of peace, or just given that patience we need?? Now I am not saying this never happens. I mean there have been times I have prayed specifically for peace and God has just covered me with a blanket of peace. There have also been times I have been prayerfully working on surrendering to Him and he grants me peace about my choice to relinquish my control. There are moments for me when God just covers me with whatever I am requesting. But for me (maybe not everyone) those are just moments. Then the moment passes and the feeling fades and I am left with whatever I already had within myself.
But when I am taught a trait (patience, peace, faith, love, joy… any fruit of the spirit) that lesson sticks with me. And no this is not like a school lesson from elementary school. One that fades with time. No. This is eternal. Once my level of patience reaches a level through experience it stays there forever, or increases but never diminishes.
So back to the questions then… Why does God do it this way? See previous paragraph. Because it sticks with us.
Why doesn’t God just give us these traits? Because I think its not the same. What do I mean… well how interesting that I happen to be listening to the song “Stronger” by Mandisa. The message of this song is that hardships will make you stronger. How true this is. When we come out the other side of a struggle we are stronger. However if we were given these traits perhaps we wouldn’t be as strong as when we earn them. Now I do know that some of us are created with certain gifts. Some of us can love anyone where they are at and do not struggle with this. Some people have an amazing enduring patience with everything. Some people are just peaceful about life – living without worry or anxiety. I personally have the gift of compassion and encouragement. I love to encourage others. I’ll stop at that or I will sound like I am bragging or something… We each have gifts but there are some things we don’t have.
So one might bring up the story in the Bible of the men with the talents (which was a sum of money). [This is in Matthew 25:14-30] At the end it says that those who take care of what they have will be given more and those who do not will have theirs taken away. The talents were given to them without merit (or lesson). This is talking about money and not the same at all.
Lets look at one of my favorite verses about hardships.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
So the word “comfort” is used in there A LOT! But the gist of it is that we go through trials so that we can be comforted and then later comfort others. So our struggles, hardships and trials are not just for us – not just to teach us some lesson – but also for others in the future. Have you ever been able to say “yeah I’ve been there”? What is more is have the words “I’ve been there” ever comforted you?
When I lived in Oregon my daughter Wren was struggling with temper tantrums. She would hit, kick, throw things, yell and scream and just be a terror. I had no clue what to do. What I really felt I needed was for someone to say, “honey I have been there and this will pass. It will be okay.” What happened when I shared it with most people, asking for prayers, was they laughed at me and said, “yeah she will get over it”. It was mainly the laughing that hurt. Wrens full name is Serenity Elizabeth Joy, however she was in no means serene or joyful during that time of her life so I am guessing that is why they laughed at me. Any way… There was one woman – Nona Skinner – who smiled at me, hugged me and said “honey, I have been there!” She proceeded to tell me the story of one of her children who was as difficult as mine. She said, “This too will pass. She will get better.” and then gave me advice of how to deal with her. Every time I saw Nona she would hug me and remind me that it will get better. She became such a comfort in my life. Why? Because she had been there, survived and had love and comfort to give.
SO in conclusion: God often teaches us traits (such as the fruits of the spirit) through trials and situations that give us experience. Why do I personally believe he does this? To make us stronger and so that we can feel his love and comfort and generously give out his love and comfort to others as we see need. This method of teaching rather than gifting is a good method because it sticks with us eternally, with increasing knowledge.
So if you are struggling in one way or another know that it will get better. You will come out on the other side stronger and some day you will be able to comfort others because of your experience. Experience makes us stronger and wiser. Oh and praying for wisdom is the same as praying for patience, too! haha… I could tell you stories about that, too.
Hope this wasn’t too long. Thanks for the read.
Lots of Love
Super Mama Maggie
If you are a first time reader please read my bio so you will know why I am so very super.