Handling Tests of Faith

Without going into great detail, there are a couple of health-related situations going on within my parish community prompting reflection today. Both are serious concerns, and both involve young people and their families. And both these groups are solid God-fearing Christian families.

With that, we are reminded rather pointedly that bad things do indeed happen to good people. Being a believing family is no guarantee whatsoever that members will not have to battle their way through difficult times.

If we accept that these dark moments will come, the key becomes how we choose to respond.

Though perhaps natural when frustration and burden weigh heavy, we may exclaim, “Why me, Lord? What did I do to deserve this?”

But if we search all the pages of Scripture we will not find a single verse stating that becoming a believer in Jesus promises an easy life. In fact, Jesus predicted quite the opposite.

When it seems we are walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I find another approach more useful. In what follows, I am depending heavily on the writings of Henri Nouwen, a favorite spirituality resource.

As believers, if we hold to the confidence that God is with us at all times, then logic dictates He is with us when difficult events arrive. He doesn’t prevent them from happening, but is there at our side to help us endure our trials.

That, by itself, should be comforting, and can help change our mindset from suffering victim to suffering student. Nouwen wrote that, because of God’s constant presence, “all things become grace-filled.”

So the trial becomes a classroom, an event which will teach us, mold us, form us in some way, leading us to become a stronger, more confident believer once the trial has passed. In the midst of our pain, we can ask our Lord, “What am I to learn from this? Help me see, and feel Your presence.”

Now, that is not to say that the problem will end in a manner we would prefer. At their core, such troubles are tests of our faith. It’s easy, isn’t it, to say we have faith in God when our lives are going well.

But when things aren’t going particularly well, sometimes our faith becomes all we have to hang onto. There’s nothing wrong with asking our Lord for what we want, but within that faith we must never stray from saying and meaning, “Thy will be done.”

That confidence assures us that, no matter how bleak the moment, if we hold onto our Lord, the sun will shine again all the brighter.

Offer a prayer for my people, if you will, and God bless us all.

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