"Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.
Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.
So if you find life difficult because you’re doing what God said, take it in stride. Trust him. He knows what he’s doing, and he’ll keep on doing it."
1 Peter 4: 1,2, 7-13 & 19 MSG
In my minds eye I'm driving back home through the streets of Hamilton late at night. I've just come from an evening with friends in which we were discussing suffering. Talking through hard things in our lives and encouraging one another. I'm sitting at an intersection that is typically a snarly mess to get through, but at this time of night I'm the only one there... waiting for a green light. It's funny how you can know a truth pretty much your whole life, but in one pivotal moment it comes home to your soul and sticks.
Sue had said in the course of the evening with literally no fanfare whatsoever that God is taking the time to shape and forge our character in this life and that it's the one thing we take with us into eternity. And for whatever reason, that went deep in me. The whole city is quiet but my mind is zipping through the conversation and it's implications. What I saw within myself in that moment was a push back against the very artistry, the unimaginable craftsmanship of God himself. What I had essentially been saying to God in the hard place I was sitting was, "Make me more like you but please don't use the chisel, the hammer or the forge to do so. Write my story, but please include these edits, oh, and I have some great ideas I'd like you to incorporate for how this chapter of my life should go!"
(As an artist myself I know that if you find an artist at the top of their craft and you commission them to create a piece for you, you're gonna just have to be happy with whatever it is they give you. You don't question a master artist or give critiques!)
So here I am questioning the methods of God. Giving Him my suggestions, critiques and criticisms. Sometimes even demanding He do things a different way. On that late night drive home I could see clearly that at it's core the question is trust. Do I believe God creates masterpieces? Do I trust His methodology? Can I be still and let Him do his amazing, masterful work even when it looks like a mess to me? Even when it's hard, uncomfortable and (to my eyes) ugly?
Now. Can I just say right here that the pain and sometimes agony of the chisel, the hammer and forge is by no means easy, fun or something that I would sign up for. I am not glossing over or trying to make this process look like it's glorious. It's not. There are no rose petals falling while soothing music plays as character is being shaped. It's gritty, hot, sweaty, gross work. There is nothing easy here. But God is. He is present in every gut wrenching second of the process and He's not going anywhere. He's committed to finishing the work and I'm glad He's on the job!