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“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 (KJV)
Life on earth is made up of a series of peaks and valleys—trials and victories. Fighting against the ebb and flow of what is beyond our control is as exhausting and futile as trying to manipulate the ocean’s tide. What will be will be, and there is very little over which we have any control.
Life’s punches hit out of nowhere, upsetting normal routines and predictability and fall into the “accept the things I cannot change” category of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. Loved ones die, leaving us behind in a state of shock and bereavement. Sickness strikes, interrupting the best-laid plans. Cars and appliances break down forcing expensive repair and replacement costs. Jobs are lost due to downsizing, outsourcing, or other reasons beyond the scope of our preferences and decisions. Relationships end regardless of how much we don’t want them to. Such is life, and as Christians walking through life in the human condition, we are not exempt.
Jesus said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (KJV)
And the Apostle Peter said, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” I Peter 4:12 (KJV)
Trials are inevitable, but they are not random. God is winnowing our path. Nothing escapes His watchful eye, and everything that touches our lives has passed through the filter of His hand first. When we don’t understand His logic, we must trust His wisdom.
Early in our marriage, my husband and I adopted two Chow puppies. They were beyond adorable, but oh, the stubbornness behind that cuteness! We found ourselves in way over our heads when it came to taming their spirited nature, so we made the decision to enroll them in obedience classes. There, we learned an exercise that was a tremendously successful tool in conquering more than just the will of our puppies.
We were to hold the puppies, one at a time, in the palm of our hands, forcing them to remain on their backs. Can you imagine the squirming? They wriggled and whimpered and wore themselves completely out trying with all their might to figure out a way to escape the firmness of our grasp. The instructor insisted that we did not give in, but resolutely hold them in place while talking to them in a commanding but gentle tone. The first time we tried, the discipline was extremely exhausting—for us and for the puppies. The next time it got just a bit easier, as they remembered not only our refusal to let them have their own way but more importantly they recalled that we did not let them fall. With time and consistency, the puppies squirmed less and less as their trust in us grew more and more.
Around this time of puppy training, we experienced several distressing situations. My 40-year-old brother-in-law died, unexpectedly. My Dad, who lived near us, became seriously ill and was hospitalized at the same time my mother-in-law, who lived out of state, was diagnosed with cancer. There were more family deaths and concerning health issues, including the heartbreaking beginning of many years of infertility. Job stress and other hardships flooded our lives, and to say we were completely overwhelmed is a huge understatement.
We began to see the change in our puppies and the futility of their intense struggle against strength that was beyond their own. Ultimately, we were the ones in control, and as we convinced them they were safe in our hands, they began to learn that squirming would not change the outcome, and they could release their fears and let go knowing we were not going to let them fall. We began to recognize that the lessons our puppies were learning were also intended for us.
Our faith in God taught us that He has a plan for each of our lives and His arms are always underneath, holding tightly, refusing to let us go. Even though we often squirmed during that season of severe trials, we came to see that struggling against what was meant to be was only making things more difficult. Trust is a learned practice, and as God brought us through each situation, we began to squirm less and trust more, knowing there was a power greater than our own ability, and no matter what, we would be okay.
That season and many other hard seasons have passed, each one instilling a deeper sense of trust. In due time, God answered our many prayers and miraculously blessed us with one beautiful baby boy of our very own who is now a teenager and graces our lives and home with such joy every, single day.
We’re still learning. I won’t say we never squirm, but I will say we have learned to squirm less over the course of our 30 years of marriage. Learning to trust God instead of squirm against Him and His perfect will is truly the path to peace.