Eat Your Vegetables
It is easier to resolve to do some things than others. To love others generously makes sense. At our core we understand others’ humanity—we can relate to how they might want to be treated; the Golden rule makes sense: treat others how you want to be treated. Scrooge resolved to be more loving and so can we.
Yet to engage with and relate to God may be quite a different matter. While on one level we believe He is infinitely different from us, there is a part of us that feels we understand Him. We think we can fully relate because Jesus became human. Christmas has reminded us of His entrance onto earth’s stage, His becoming like us. But in some sense we anthropomorphize God. We think of Him in terms of us. We imagine He thinks like us and acts like us.
So when it comes to difficulties in our lives, while we may say we trust in God we don’t always fully believe He can or will help. We know our own weakness and impotence in the midst of insurmountable difficulties, and we transfer that impotence to God. Or if not impotent, we think He doesn’t care. Impossible?
Think of three things in your life right now that bother you, three things that might be described as ‘trials’. When you pray about these difficult situations (or conditions, or people) what do you pray?
Our natural tendency is to want the bothersome situations gone. We recoil from hardships, draw back from discomforts, search for ease within our dis-ease. We view equilibrium as the point at which we best balance life’s pleasures; when a trial interrupts that equilibrium we see it as an interruption, interference in our best-laid plans.
Once again, James, bishop of the early Christian church (see ‘New Year Resolution, Part 1’), challenges the status quo, advising, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers (and sisters) whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2).
Trials of many kinds are to be considered as what? Pure joy? Not bothersome annoyances to be avoided at all costs? Not badges of bitter suffering worn on sorry sleeves? Is the man mad? What kind of lunatic or masochist would suggest that trials should be considered pure joy?
James most likely writes with a wry smile on his lips, imagining our first response. He gently and logically presents his line of reasoning: trials test our faith, the testing develops perseverance, perseverance matures and completes our spiritual development, and spiritual maturity is the ultimate high. Is this line of reasoning valid? Do we believe that every painful problem that lands searingly in our laps is for our ultimate good? Can we accept that God is so intimately involved in our lives that He allows only those trials that will mature us like nothing else could? Do we view our spiritual growth and maturity as the most fulfilling joy we could ever experience?
Remember how as children our parents set before us vegetables that had to be eaten? Come on now. We must admit there was at least one type of vegetable that made our toes curl. Why couldn’t candy be good for us rather than vegetables, we moaned. Yet our parents insisted on presenting us with that trial every day. Why? Were they impotent to exchange peanut butter for mushy peas, or brownies for beets? We see the point. We still hear the enlightening, “It’s for your own good.”
So here’s Resolve number two: Eat Your Vegetables. Have the maturity to see trials for what they can do for you. Like the genial Popeye you’ll sing, ”I’m strong to the finish, ‘cause I eats my spinach”. Trust God today, and persevere joyfully.
(Photo Credit: Evan-Amos, Wikimedia Commons)