Tea ~ Caramel Apple
Have you ever gone through a hard time or been in a tough situation and thought, “Why me?” or “Where is God in this?” Perhaps you’ve lost your job, your health, or can’t seem to figure out your romantic relationships and you’re wondering if there is something wrong with you. You’re not the only one. I asked this question once, many years ago, soon after giving my life to Christ as a teenager. I’ve asked God what the point of going through struggles is. Why do I hurt? I’ve only had to ask this question once and go to Him in prayer, journaling and scripture and He has been SO faithful in His response again and again, comforting me when I feel like my world has been turned upside down and inside out and I am an emotional basket case. And since then, I’ve invited God’s trials and tests and actually prayed for them.
I know what you’re thinking, “WHAT?! WHY WOULD YOU EVER BRING THAT UPON YOURSELF?!” “WHY WOULD YOU PRAY FOR TRIALS?!”
I’m also a volleyball player and coach. I played division 1 collegiate volleyball nearly a decade ago. Was I a rock star? Not exactly, but I did pretty well. I also had my share of bench warming. Did I work my butt off to be the best I could be? You bet I did! That’s really all my coaches could expect from me and what I expect from my players. We are not all born with ridiculous athletic ability and 48″ verticals like Michael Jordan. What we can offer is our best effort. That includes hustle, having a good attitude, being a good teammate and respecting your coach and trusting their plan for your athletic career during your time with them. Will they always be right or know what they are doing? No, they are human too and they are doing the best they can with the knowledge and experience they have.
As a coach, it is my responsibility to not only get results and improvement from you as a player, but to get those results using the right technique. Anyone can get a serve to go over the net or put a ball through a basketball hoop, but can you do it in a way that prevents injuries or to score with a sense of urgency (aka aggressiveness)? If you can’t, then I’m going to be critiquing you. If you don’t want to be critiqued, then any coach would prefer you leave the gym. You’re wasting my time and yours. If you don’t intend to try to do what your coach asks of you, it’s disrespectful. And you’re saying you prefer to do it your own way and that your coach doesn’t know anything. I prefer a less-gifted athlete who is there to improve and have fun than an All-American with a bad attitude and lack-luster work ethic.
After a few sessions with Miss All-American, I would probably stop giving her suggestions on how to speed up her arm swing or make her defense more efficient and just give her reps. Why bother? She’s not there to learn. Her pride in her ability as a player has gotten in the way of what is more important, which is all of the things I listed above in presenting our best effort.
But the less physically gifted athlete with a great attitude and work ethic? She is a JOY! And people always notice her improvement and comment on it. ALWAYS! Am I proud of the good job I did with that player? Absolutely! But she was also willing to be critiqued, and that is half of the equation for improvement. Sometimes she may think I’m riding her and she may get frustrated that she can’t do anything right, but that is not true at all! I’m on her case because she has the potential to be a great player and I care enough to help her become just that. And that, my friends, is not a waste of my time. I want my players to reach their potential, just as I want the same for myself, even as an adult! I LOVE to be coached in my sport!
Did you know that God wants the same for us? He wants us to reach our potential as a follower of Christ. In order to do that, He tests us. This looks different for everyone, but each of us will be tested by God or God will allow Satan to tempt us just as He did with His servant, Job. God does not call us to be happy, He calls us to be holy and to make His name more famous and further His Kingdom. So how are we to respond to these trials?
There are SO many scriptures that talk about trials and suffering and God’s promises are right alongside them. I couldn’t even post them all:
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4
“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 12:12
“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“…we patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind…we serve God whether people honor us or despise us…we are honest, but they call us imposters…our hearts ache, but we always have joy…” 2 Corinthians 6:3-13 (please read this one!)
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5
“For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Others – Matthew 16:21-23, Philippians 3:7-11, 2 Corinthians 1:3-11
So what does God promise us? He promises that we will encounter trials; our trials will not last very long; He will comfort us and give us peace; others will comfort us because they have had a similar situation. God loves us so much, cares enough to see our potential and what we can become; he rides us to form us to be more like Christ. We should rejoice in our trials, for they refine us and cause us to trust Him and rely on Him more. And when we trust Him more, we LACK NOTHING!
Jesus is the ultimate picture of trials and suffering and scripture lays it out directly in how he handled his sufferings in 1 Peter, chapter 2. And when Jesus started predicting his future suffering and death to his disciples, Peter said “This will never happen to you!” (Matt. 16:22). Immediately, Jesus said “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (vs. 23). Wow! Jesus called him out and did not want to be tempted to avoid his sufferings. He wanted to be made perfect in his trials.
How many times have I been guilty of seeing things from a human perspective instead of God’s in terms of trials and suffering? Both in avoidance and response with pride or a bad attitude like Miss All-American; thinking that my way is better? I want to be refined! I am honored and blessed that God would have something to teach me when I encounter a trial! I want more! More reps to improve my technique and game. I want to give all the glory to God, who is worthy of all praise & adoration. I want to be a better player for Christ so I can then go forth and coach others. I learned more about myself on the bench during my trials as a player when it wasn’t my ideal situation or where I wanted to be than I did on the court. I wouldn’t trade those lessons for anything because it shaped my character and made me a better teammate.
Not everyone is in a place in their walk with the Lord to pray such a bold prayer, and that’s ok! I encourage you to ask God where you might be challenged and refined in Him, knowing all along that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice and suffered so that we might rejoice and have hope and peace. “By his wounds, you are healed.” 1 Peter 2:24, and then made mature and complete, lacking nothing. Put forth your best effort (& pray for a change of heart), because we are not all gifted in the same ways. God desires and delights in a teachable spirit and then we are His PRIDE and JOY.