Should I Be Grateful For Trials?
It is difficult to be thankful for hard times, but often in hindsight, that is when God does the most work in our lives.
It was an afternoon in 2020. The whole world was on edge and had a sense of uneasiness and dread about it. I was sitting on the couch and my wife was in the kitchen and the boys were running around and creating the noise and chaos that is childhood. I suddenly had a sense of motion that was almost internal and my entire equilibrium was off. I looked up at my wife and saw that she was feeling the same thing. Then I looked at these decorative globes that hung from the ceiling and took in their metronome-like swaying.
When you feel the ground shake and live this close to the Yellowstone super volcano, its proximity is your immediate thought. Once that thought went through my mind, as well as, "It's 2020, why not?", I started to think about that feeling you get in an earthquake.
Earthquakes are possibly one of the more unsettling natural disasters to experience. The one thing in life that we are used to being immutable and secure, the very foundation of our physical life, what we hold onto in the blasting winds of a hurricane, is the earth. All of a sudden, that permanence begins to undulate slowly or shake violently and you feel it from inside of you as if your inner ear suddenly ceased to function.
I was in Haiti after the devastating earthquake a decade ago and I was sitting in a man's concrete home. The walls were at least a foot thick of concrete and he said during the earthquake they were waving like water, undulating and weaving like a serpent. The house stood firm, but I didn't feel secure sitting in there after he told me that. In the days that followed, I experienced more than one aftershock and had the unsettling, rocking sensation.
Recently I have had a different sort of shaking in my life. Not externally, but internally. Every now and then, my heart will miss beats. I will feel a bit "off" and begin checking my pulse and now and then one just goes missing. It's unsettling. I become conscious and aware of my heartbeat all the time. My doctor put me on a heart monitor for a month to see if there is any abnormal electrical activity that needs to be corrected. Once again, something I took for granted began to crack and life felt uncertain.
Though the earthquake did no real damage (except maybe stir the beast that is our supervolcano) and though the heart is hopefully a small issue that can be easily remedied, in both cases I found myself evaluating my life. It was like an EKG for my spiritual life and I did some soul-searching. My wife will tell you that I was not at all as blase as I sound writing this. This digging and prodding into what my heart was doing unnerved me for several days and I struggled with some anxiety, but in the end, had to realize that I was thankful.
I was given a chance to do a spiritual audit of my life and I found many accounts to be falling short. I was weighed, I was measured and I was found wanting. I had a heart problem that would never show up on an EKG. I was living for myself and not for Christ. I was quickly becoming what Craig Groeschel calls, a Christian Atheist or that detestable designation, a nominal Christian. The lukewarm grossness that God spits out of his mouth [Rev. 3:16].
It's not the audit that matters, but the steps you take to correct or change deficiencies at the end of the audit. In my case, I spent time in prayer, repented of my sins and shortcomings, and began to look for ways to safeguard against the same complacency that I know will inevitably come if I make no plans. I started some more in-depth accountability with a godly friend, adjusted my schedule where needed, cut some things out of my life, and spoke with my wife about the direction I want to be heading.
I don't know what your motivation may be, but in addition to my own desire for a relationship with Christ, I have 3 young boys and soon to be 4 that watch me incessantly and I want them to know Christ. What I saw in that audit was a father who was asking his sons to live as he said, and not as he lived.
So I am thankful for the trembling earth and the missed beats. Like the children of Israel, who were allowed by a loving God to be reminded when they went away from Him, He knew I needed a reminder that I am small and insignificant and that my short time on this earth means nothing if it isn't lived for Christ.