It was the summer between my junior and senior year of college. In the grand scheme of things, it should have been one of the greatest times of my life. I was 21 years old, probably in the best shape of my life, close to the finish line in getting a college degree, growing in my relationship with God (I think I read my Bible almost every day that summer) and I was heading back to my Christian college having just been selected as student body chaplain. I worked hard that summer. I wasn’t sitting around waiting on God to hand over money for college in some mysterious way… I worked all summer in sales for the Varsity Company, a summer door to door sales program for college students and a division of Thomas Nelson Publishers. This was my third summer selling books and Bibles door to door. We worked 81 hours each week, all summer long and I had recruited a large team of students I had trained in sales and was managing them as well. If I can go out on a limb here and say that in my mind, if a guy was in a position to receive God’s favor, be blessed of Him, and see success, I must certainly have been in that place. I was growing mentally, spiritually, physically and socially just like He said we should.
What happened that August summer night felt like the farthest thing from God’s favor. I didn’t feel loved by Him, blessed by Him or rewarded in any way whatsoever for my choices to serve Him faithfully. When that drunk driver came over that hill on the wrong side of the road traveling 80-90 miles per hour and hit us, my world changed in an instant. My view of God changed within that same millisecond. My friend and I went on a short walk in this tiny town in Georgia where I had lived all summer. We were walking and talking when the drunk driver flew up behind us at 80-90 miles per hour and hit us after drifting off the left side of the road. It was a long way down the road before he could get the car stopped. He spun around in the road, shined his lights toward us and then chose to speed away down a side street. I was okay, but my friend was killed instantly. In that moment, with my friend who was just taken into eternity, I looked up at the sky filled with stars and I said out loud, “God … what are you doing?”
The weeks ahead were hard but for some reason it felt like I was going to be okay. I forged ahead with a spirit of determination, a will to win and come out on the other side somehow victorious. About a month later, settling into the routine of life back at college, the weight of all that had happened overtook me in ways I don’t think I could ever explain. I was breaking. I couldn’t keep myself moving forward anymore. A dark cloud seemed to be overtaking me in a powerful way. I was down, hurting, struggling with horrible nightmares. I started thinking things through and processing it all. All of a sudden it didn’t feel like God was good, that He was blessing me and taking care of me. I started thinking about the trials of my life and how I had expectations that God was going to take better care of me than this. I couldn’t focus and it was hard to keep up with senior level classes. I got mad … really mad and life began to get a lot worse.
It takes time to heal from a major trial of life. It’s a process and it took me about eighteen months to experience real freedom from the pain and confusion of my trial. It seemed like such a long time but today as I think back on it, eighteen months isn’t really that long in the grand scheme of things. I’m so glad I began to take the steps that led me back into a place where God and I were “on the same page” again. Because you really don’t want to live out your life in a war with God, blaming Him, angry with Him and challenging Him about why He hasn’t performed better for you. If that’s where you are right now, stop for a moment and realize this truth. Many others, throughout the history of mankind, have experienced hardship but that doesn’t prove that somehow God is not good or that you in some way are less important to Him or loved less by Him. Here are a few of the steps that led me out of the darkness of a trial.
I prayed honestly and ask God for help.
In Psalm 51:10 David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” For me, I found my way out of the forest of pain and confusion when I started asking God to lead me out and I asked Him openly and honestly to “renew a right spirit inside of me.” I could honestly say to God that I had a horrible attitude about what had happened in my life and I needed Him to heal my hurts and lead me to a place of reconciliation with Him and He answered that prayer and helped me heal.
I stopped asking, “Why me?”
When bad things happen to us, I guess it’s normal to ask why. It took a while for me to understand that there are many reasons God allows trials. I studied and found a list of several different purposes God has in the trials of our life. I found that not every trial is the consequence of sin in our life and usually that is our first assumption. It’s important to understand that not every trial of life is coming as some form of discipline from God because you or I deserve to be “spanked” by Him. There are actually some very positive outcomes from our “fiery trials” and when we understand that it helps a lot. So I started to look around and recognize that so many people go through very difficult things and why should I expect to be exempt from trials. So instead of asking, “Why me?” it was better to just understand that we live in a pretty wicked world and bad things happen to a lot of people so the better question is, “What now?” What amazing plan does God have for me as a result of this?
I realized I could choose to become bitter or better, but it really was my choice.
Job 23:10, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
Hebrews addresses three ways we can respond to a trial. Hebrews 12:5, “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:” Hebrews 12:11, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
Your response to your trial are to:
- Despise It: Get mad and live a bitter life.
- Faint Under It: Give up and quit.
- Be exercised By It: Become the better, stronger person God wants you to be, allowing God to use the trial of your life as a launching pad into a life and ministry you might not have ever experienced without the opportunity to become “gold” through God’s refinery.
Great days are ahead for you as you move forward trusting God. He has proven to me over and over that He is a God of love, power and strength. As a matter of fact, God has shown me a hundred times over how he can use my trials. I work with high-risk youth and have had conversations with so many teens who are asking “why do I have to live life without a father, why is my mom a drug addict and why does my family have to live in poverty? If God loves me, why isn’t my life different?”
Instead of asking, “Why did He allow this?” I now say, “What would I have done without Him?” He’s not trying to crush you, He actually shows up at the scene of the accident to pick you up and carry you through it. He is in your surgery room, He is in your home during turmoil, He is standing by you and feeling your pain. Don’t tell the Great Physician to go away, invite Him in and let Him make you whole again. He’s really good at that.
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