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As I reflect back over these past three plus years of unemployment, the lessons I have learned go far beyond just “finding another job.” Indeed, I still haven’t found that elusive job yet, but what I have found is absolutely irreplaceable. In my devotional reading this morning I happened upon the following devotion titled “Back-Door Blessing” by Dr. Charles Swindoll in his devotional book, “Day by Day,” and it was such an encouragement to me that I want to share it with you:
“I had lunch recently with a businessman who runs his own company. As we talked, the subject of wisdom kept popping up in our conversation. So I asked, ‘How does a person get wisdom? I realize we are to be men of wisdom, but few people ever talk about how it is acquired.’
“His answer was quick and to the point: ‘Pain.’
“I paused and looked deeply into his eyes. Without knowing the specifics, I knew his one word answer was not theoretical. He and pain had gotten to know each other rather well.
“It was then I quoted from the first chapter of James: ‘When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence’ (James 1:2-4, Phillips).
“There is no shortcut, no such thing as instant endurance. The pain brought on by interruptions and disappointments, by loss and failure, by accidents and disease, is the long and arduous road to maturity. There is no other road.
“But where does wisdom come in? James explains in the next verse: ‘And if, in the process, any of you does not know how to meet any particular problem he has only to ask God–who gives generously to all men without making them feel foolish or guilty–and he may be quite sure that the necessary wisdom will be given him’ (1:5).
“ ‘As I see it, it is a domino effect. One thing bumps up against another, which, in turn, bumps another, and in the long haul, endurance helps us mature. Periodically, however, we will find ourselves at a loss to know what to do or how to respond. It’s then we ask for help, and God delivers more than intelligence and ideas and good old common sense. He dips into His well of wisdom and allows us to drink from His bucket, whose refreshment provides abilities and insights that are of another world. Perhaps it might best be stated as having a small portion of ‘the mind of Christ.’
“When we have responded as we should to life’s blows, enduring them rather than escaping them, we are given more maturity that stays with us and new measures of wisdom, which we are able to draw upon for the balance of our lives.”
By accepting life’s tests and temptations as friends,
We become men and women of mature character.
Nobody likes pain. Had I known what I would be going through these past three years on the day that I was fired, I would have, no doubt, tried to excuse myself from the lessons I’ve had to learn. I would have much rather just found another job immediately and moved on with my life. But God definitely had other plans, and you’ve read about them in my previous blog posts.
There is no quick and easy way to learn maturity in following Jesus Christ, and I still have a long way to go, too, but as James 1 tells us: “When all kinds of trials and temptations crowd into your lives my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they come to test your faith and to produce in you the quality of endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men of mature character with the right sort of independence.”
I’ve heard lots of people (including myself) over the years say they want more faith. Well, here’s how you get it–through trials and tribulations; they test your faith, and if you pass and not give up half way through, they will produce endurance, and when endurance is fully developed, you will become a person of mature character. So don’t truncate God’s work in your life through the various trials and temptations that come your way. Give them to God, and don’t give up or give in half way through. And don’t make any excuses, either. Let Him do His perfect work in you. Trials and temptations really are friends, if you don’t demand your own way in the process of going through them.
This particular devotion was especially meaningful to me today, and something I really needed for encouragement as I continue along this path of unemployment. And it is my sincere hope that it will be encouragement for you, too, no matter what you might be facing in your own life right now.
So be encouraged!
And . . . never, never, never give in. The lessons are too valuable to miss. Instead, give it to God and let Him work it out in His way and His timing.
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