Trials. Pain. Healing. Praise. These are all hard for me, especially lately. You know, you can hear the same thing over and over again so many times it starts to sound like a broken record, yet only allow it to sink into the true depths of your soul after you've heard it just one more time. I'm not sure why things take so long to seep in sometimes, but I had one of those moments today.
I've been pouring over the passage in Romans 5 now for some time. You know it, I'm sure. The one that tells me I'm supposed to be rejoicing in my suffering to the end result of hope. Hope has been plaguing me a lot lately too because the higher your hopes, the more it hurts when they come crashing down on you. The passage, however, of course refers to hope in God and His salvation for us - which never fails or disappoints.
One of the things I like to do when I'm studying a small portion of the Word is to read it in many translations and versions. For the first part of verse 3, one in particular caught my eye:
"But that's not all! We gladly suffer..." (Contemporary English Version)
Gladly suffer. That's a far cry from what many people say when they reference trials and tribulations. "Pray and praise your way through it!" with the emphasis on "through it" is common, not "praise because of it". Yet when you examine this passage and the one in James 1 ("Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials..." - NAS) it seems to me like we're supposed to be rejoicing because of it, not just so we can get through it. It's there for a reason with a specific purpose in mind, and we're supposed to be thankful for it because of what God is using it to accomplish in us (hope in Him, perfection/maturity).
Having been plagued with this for a while now seeing that for at least the past year I've felt deeply encompassed by one particular trial, and for even more years by yet another one - and for neither of which have I ever been able to raise my head towards heaven with the purpose of thanking Him; today I found myself in a new place. As I read something that was so much like so many things I have read and heard for so long, something clicked and as naturally as a baby cries when it is hungry, my eyes closed and I thanked God for the trial. I'm not quite sure that I meant it, and it was fleeting, but it was still a milestone to me. All along I've been pleading and begging and asking why - yearning for hope, peace, endurance and a meaning to it all; but I've never been able to thank Him for it and whatever He's trying to do with it. The idea sounds pretty close to absurd to the human mind, so it is a very hard concept to grasp. It's not just the final stage of grief, "acceptance", it goes so far beyond that.
I'm not sure if tonight when I lay down to go to sleep or tomorrow when I get up, I'll be able to thank Him again... but today, right now, I'll be thankful for the small things. This one little "aha" moment that helped me shed just a little bit of these rags of sorrow. A sock, perhaps? Who knows, I may kick this thing yet and be able to honestly say:
"You turned my wailing into dancing;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever." (Psalm 30:11-12; NIV)