If you knew me years ago, you would have seen someone with administrative and leadership gifts and very little room for grace. Although I would have always considered myself a compassionate person, I also lived by the letter of the law and expected everyone else to live the same way. I expected my children to do everything correctly and thought their outward behavior demonstrated that I was “doing it right” and was a good mother. I tended to be judgmental about others. I kept deep struggles inside, disliked correction, and tried to control the way people viewed me. I had grown up trying to make sure all I did was right so that my parents would be pleased and others would accept me. I wanted everything to be “perfect.” In essence, I was filled with pride.
I’d like to say that changed when I became a Christian, but God had a lot of work to do in my heart. He generously provided a spouse whose life is filled with grace. Tim’s example has shown me a better way. But God has also been using trials and suffering to change me. Paul Tripp in his book Suffering says: “Suffering confronts us with the fact that life is not about us but about God. It is not about our glory but his.”
As I look back, those trials began to chip away at the hardness in my heart, revealing the pride within my soul. They ultimately showed me that what I thought I could control was really controlled by the Sovereign One who ordered each trial for my good and his glory. Each trial was painful and drove me to the end of myself, and into the arms of my Savior.
There were many tears and cries of “Why Lord!” There was much screaming and kicking in my heart, railing against the pain, and pleading for it to end. But these trials were thrusting me to memorize God’s Word, search the Scriptures, make myself vulnerable to friends, worship through tears with a greater passion, and submit to the heart work that was taking place deep in my soul, drawing me closer to Him.
I came to see that I didn’t have to earn God’s love or be in control. My value as a mother didn’t lie in my children’s behavior but in my Savior. I gained a deep compassion for other parents with struggling children. I felt a new and desperate need to be known and share with others. I couldn’t manage on my own anymore and needed their counsel, shoulders to weep on, and love to carry me through the deep valleys. All these inclinations were new, borne of the work God was doing in my life. Through my difficulties, God showed me how to value and live in grace in a new way. He was doing His good work within my heart.
Spurgeon says it well: “Trials can prove a wonderful work of God in us. I have looked back to times of trial with a kind of longing, not to have them return, but to feel the strength of God as I have felt it then, to feel the power of faith, as I have felt it then, to hang upon God’s powerful arm as I hung upon it then, and to see God at work as I saw him then.”
I know this side of heaven, I will encounter yet more trials in this fallen world, but I have the hope–and evidence– that through each one He is making me more like Him.