Monday, February 21, 2011

The Best Fruit of All

When I was in High School, I was very active in Young Life.  I so loved this organization, that I volunteered with them when I was in college.  The leaders in my YL club quite literally saved my life.  They took me under their wings and helped me through some pretty rough times in high school like the foreclosure of my parent's house and their near divorce, my best friend's decision to have an abortion, and some heartache with school and sports.  They saw something in me and invested in me like no one had before.

I remember the wife of this team, Cheryl, telling me the story of how she and her husband met, fell in love and got married.  She told me that she and her husband, Dave, had met in February, were engaged by May and married by August.  The speed of their courtship shocked me, but the thing that was most surprising to me was what she said next.  She told me that right after she and Dave got engaged she prayed that the Lord would give them some sort of trial to go through together.  She told me that the relationship had been so blessed up until that point, she felt like she needed to know how they would handle trials and hardships together. 

This was such a surprising thing for me to hear as a teen.  I'd never before thought of relationships in the light she was presenting them before.  I had never considered that relationships might benefit if not outright need to go through testing together and that this could be a good thing for a relationship.

As I have gotten older, the truth of her story has proven itself to me over and over again.  Some of the best friends I have are friends that I have had this experience with.  I remember a particular tension spot I had with a friend whose wedding I actually ended up being Maid of Honor for.  I was terrified that this friction between the two of us would mean the end of our friendship.  (I think for relationships that are not on a true, solid foundation, this can and does happen frequently.)  Instead, after working through the issue that was causing the conflict between us, our friendship actually ended up being even stronger and more solid than it was before.  It was almost as though going through this confrontation drew us even closer together.

I am finding this same principal is the true with our relationship with the Lord.

As I am emerging out of my long season of suffering, I am having continually deeper revelation about the Lord's purposes in allowing us to go through messy seasons. 

In my previous view, the sole purpose of these rough seasons was that the Lord allowed them for the sole purpose of character development and to prepare the His chosen ones for greater things.  I still believe that those things are true.  After all, Job was restored more than was taken, Joseph became second in command of all of Egypt, Ruth gave birth to a man who would be in the lineage of Jesus, and I could go on and on. 

However, this is only part of the story!  Just like in our human relationships, our times of affliction are more primarily meant to draw us closer, but in this case to the Lord.  If our distress breaks our relationship with the Lord, it was never a true relationship to begin with.

I've been taking a closer look at the book of Job...even before the Lord restores Job and gives him back more than was taken, the Lord spends chapter after chapter revealing Himself to Job, He tells Job who He is, and He opens Job's eyes to all that He is and has done.

This is the same lesson I am learning too.  As I submit to the Lord's leading and work in my life and focus on Him again, I am entering in to a sweet fellowship and intimacy with Him like I have not had before.  I am learning all about Him all over again, and He is revealing Himself to me.  My relationship with Him is strengthened and intensified.

If I limit my revelation about seasons of distress only being for character development, then I begin to have a lopsided view of the Lord.  Seasons seasons of adversity WILL continue to happen to us over and over. There is no escaping them. We keep repeating these seasons, like a cycle, we repeat them over and over.  The difference is that we are meant to go deeper and deeper and deeper; not into a pit of despair but deeper into a well of living water.

The problem with a lopsided view of God's reasons for these seasons is that it paints Him as a hard-driven task master who is only interested in refining our character and making us more like Him.  While He IS interested in those things, He is infinitely more interested in developing our relationship with Him. If I only view my trials through this lens, I begin to strive and strain to figure out what's wrong with me or what I'm doing wrong so that I can put an end to this season.  If I instead view the ultimate goal of these times as something to draw me closer to the Lord....well, then I can rest more firmly in Christ's arms, abiding in Him, and cooperating with Him in all He wants to do in me.
This, I believe, is the source of peace I am now experiencing....I have realized that my relationship with the Lord has been strengthened and renewed by the last three years even stronger and deeper than it was before.  This is even sweeter tasting fruit than any character trait I've developed or any blessing the Lord might have prepared for me.


  1. Loved reading this post! God is doing great things in your heart this year Erin...I believe preparing you for GREAT things to come!!!