Saturday, October 31, 2009

Before and AFTER

"And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:2-4, NIV)

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who had it all. She was married to a prominent member of her community, worked as an investment broker, lived on a lake and hung out with all the beautiful people in town. Although she seemed to have it all, she was insecure, never content, and a terrible control freak.

As she chased after things she thought would make her happy, she found her dreams shattered through tragedies. Her troubles began with two miscarriages. After the second, some friends introduced her to a radically different life in Christ. She felt touched by God and made a choice that would assure her salvation.

Despite her faith decision, her suffering only got worse. A husband who found himself jobless 5 times over a 7 year period, repeated infertility treatment, three successful pregnancies resulting in two children with expensive special needs, physical problems of her own, and endless financial woes were just a few of her more remarkable struggles. Nevertheless, as she proceeded through each trial, she found herself increasingly filled with joy, hope and peace.

In a nutshell, that woman is me. The promise of my faith life in Jesus is what compels me to share it with others. You see, it's not that the challenges in my life have decreased or that I enjoy them. In fact, I hate them! But it's Who is walking through these things with me. That's what makes all the difference -- for every human being.

The difference also comes in what we can see develop in ourselves. I used to be a major complainer with misplaced values. I had an attitude of entitlement that I filtered everything in my life through. My focus was all about me. And there were days where I would be so depressed that I could barely get out of bed. Frankly, I don't know how anyone could stand to be around me!

Now my hope and humor rule the days, only by the grace of God. I'm stronger in the face of trouble. I can laugh even during the hardest times. My problems shrink as I comfort others in their difficulties. I don't major in minor things. And my focus is on pleasing the One who I'll spend my forever with.

Lest I sound overly simplistic, the transformation of mind and spirit doesn't happen overnight. As laid out in Romans 5, it is incremental, building upon itself. Testing with failure often points us towards improvement the next time around.

We also have the choice of cooperating with God in the process. If we choose to be bitter, self-righteous, and unyielding, God will eventually say, "Fine, have it your own way!" But we have to get honest with ourselves, asking, "How's that working out for me when I have my own way?" When we turn over control to God willingly, we can find ourselves pleasantly surprised with purpose. Instead of being restricted, we can find freedom that helps us live beyond our circumstances.

When I reflect back on who I once was, I can't help but thank God for saving me from myself! Not that I am anywhere near perfect, but I'm becoming more of what He likes to see, and perhaps, more tolerable to those around me. Although it had to come through great difficulties, I am glad for the eternal makeover program my Wise Creator has drawn me into.

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