Delighting in God’s Training

This article ran here with Lighthouse Bible Studies as part of their Delighting in God blog series.

Does anyone like me? The footsteps and laughter of second graders filled the playground, but I stood there with a void in my heart. My family had just moved in the middle of the school year, and I missed the smiling faces of my friends.

At recess with my old class, I invented a game everyone loved: I pretended to be a film director and cast my classmates as actors in my adventure stories. It made them feel like movie stars.

On my last day, my teacher seated the class down on the rug where she normally held up vocabulary flash cards. Instead of beginning a lesson, she announced that it was party time. A goodbye party for me!

With this new class, I felt like a bug crawling on the jungle gym. Everyone already had their circles of friends, though I tried to push my way in. When I asked one girl for her phone number, she wrote down a set of digits on my notebook. Then I overhead her say to a friend, “It’s a fake number.”

It wasn’t just the girls. During class one day, I asked the boy seated next to me a question about a reading assignment. He squinted, saying, “You gotta figure it out yourself.”

That was more than twenty years ago, and the scar has long healed. I’ve learned to be thankful for that time because it made my heart a little bigger. In future school years, when a new kid joined, I was always welcoming. At my job, I’m quick to invite new coworkers out to lunch. If I see a woman sitting alone at church, I gravitate toward her and introduce myself.

I know it’s not just me. God gives this character training to you, me, and everyone. And He often does it through trials, just like my move in second grade. Whether He’s the one that caused the hardship is rarely clear, but what matters is that He uses those sufferings to sculpt us into the people He wants us to be. He sees our life from beginning to end, so He knows exactly what strengths we’ll need to fulfill His plans.

Remember Joseph? He endured a much tougher road than I did, but God, as He does with each of us, used Joseph’s experiences to turn the situation around for good.

When Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers, the betrayal must have seared his heart. But he saw the big picture, even after being sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Then, after years of no contact, Joseph’s brothers stood before him, seeking grain that Joseph had stored. Joseph recognized their faces, but his brothers didn’t recognize him. When a tearful Joseph revealed his identity, notice what he said:

“But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.” Genesis 45:5-7 (NKJV)

Joseph was in Egypt at the right place at the right time, with the foresight and power to store up food so that people wouldn’t starve.

But I also think Joseph’s sufferings did one more thing—they shaped his character. Joseph grew more selfless, not wanting others to endure pain like he did. He also learned how to wait on God, standing strong through his sufferings instead of growing bitter.

When we go through hard times, God eventually “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3 NKJV).  From there, it’s clear our trials have trained us for the Almighty’s tasks—adventures far greater than my stories in second grade!

What trials have equipped you for your role in God’s Kingdom? Please share in the comments.

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