UNWELCOME FRIENDS

I have told you all this so that you may find your peace in me. You will find trouble in the world—but, never lose heart, I have conquered the world!” [John 16:33 (PHILLIPS)]

When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! … The man who patiently endures the temptations and trials that come to him is the truly happy man. For once his testing is complete he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to all who love him. [James 1:2,12 (PHILLIPS)]

wasp nestTroubles—Jesus tells us they’re inevitable, James tells us to welcome them as friends and Paul tells us that we can have joy in the midst of them. I suppose we might as well make the best of them since, like poor relatives when we’ve won the lottery, trouble is sure to find us no matter where we hide. Like people, troubles come in all shapes and sizes. Some are dead serious while others are merely annoying. Troubles, like people, are unpredictable; when you expect them, they don’t arrive and when it is least convenient, they do! Then, just when you think they’ve packed up and are ready to leave, you discover they’ve actually settled in for the season.

It’s been said that fish and house guests start to stink after three days; I’m inclined to think that problems start to stink about that time, as well. Unfortunately, it often easier to get rid of spoiled fish or unwelcome houseguests than it is difficulties.

In spite of James’ words, I’m not sure any of us can welcome troubles the way we do friends. Nevertheless, while we don’t have to be thrilled about their arrival, we can maintain a positive outlook during their stay. Knowing God has a purpose for our trials, we can even find some joy in their presence. While we may not welcome challenges, we can welcome the refining of our faith, the development of our endurance, and the building of our character that accompany them.

When I look back over my lifetime, I realize that I’ve become a better person, not in spite of my troubles, but because of them. At least for me, good truly has come from all the bad that happened. That said, I’m the first to admit that I don’t look forward to any more faith strengthening or character building experiences. Thank you, God, but I’d just as soon stop right here. God, however, doesn’t give us a say in that matter and He’s not done with any of us until our last day on earth. While I’m not putting out the welcome mat for misfortune, calamity, trouble, and trials, I won’t fear their arrival.

Trials are medicines which our gracious and wise Physician prescribes because we need them; and he proportions the frequency and weight of them to what the case requires. Let us trust his skill and thank him for his prescription. [Sir Isaac Newton]

This doesn’t mean, of course, that we have only a hope of future joys—we can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us. Already we have some experience of the love of God flooding through our hearts by the Holy Spirit given to us. [Romans 5:3-5 (PHILLIPS)]

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