“An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.” (G.K Chesterton)
Rhett Butler, that rakish charmer in Margaret Mitchell’s, Gone With the Wind, claimed that there was just as much money to be made in the tearing down of a civilization as there was in the building up of one. The problem, he explained to the disinterested Scarlett, was that “... most fools won’t see it and take advantage of the situation.” It strikes me that Rhett is speaking a wider truth than a basic lesson in war profiteering. Our downfall is not in what happens to us, but in our inability to discern the truth about the difficulties in which we find ourselves.
We want to be like Christ, but we expect that the process of change will be slow and gradual--glacial pace--with minimal discomfort. We like Jesus as the One who adds to our lives, but we’re a little nervous about the One who ominously said He came to bring a sword. We know that we will profit spiritually as the Holy Spirit builds us up--but we’re less adept at taking advantage of the destruction of our misconceptions about God. When something terrible happens --or, something wonderful is denied--we tend to think the source of our pain is that God has somehow let us down, or that we have disappointed Him. But this is a false dichotomy that regards God only in terms of reward or punishment. In destroying our faulty understanding, He has expertly ripped out a foundation built on sand because He knows it won’t hold up for long. The thing about foundations--even faulty ones--is that they still usually require a pretty big force to demolish and then dig them out.
“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. (Hosea 6:1)
The process by which anything is transformed is painful. The trials, temptations and disappointments that God leads us through so that He can remove the workings of the flesh and correct the misunderstandings we have about Him, often feel like hell on earth. The tendency is to focus on how we feel about those circumstances rather than to look for what else might be hidden in them.
Joseph’s continual obedience sent him on a downward spiral of betrayal, slavery, temptation, false accusation, prison and being forgotten. If he prayed that God would get him out of his terrible circumstances, each time God answered, it was to send him into a more difficult one. But the purpose wasn’t in freeing Joseph from slavery, or getting him out of prison. The purpose was transformation. Not only had God developed the character traits that Joseph would need in his future position; but theologians have also regarded him as a Christ-like figure in the Old Testament, meaning that God was already conforming people into the pattern of His Son before Jesus took on flesh.
“I’m going to come out of this war a rich man--because I was far-sighted.” (Gone with the Wind)
I have wrongly considered the problems that I have faced. I have looked at an adventure and seen a trial. I have seen repetitive inconvenience instead of an intricate spiritual obstacle course that was honing my abilities; teaching me to leap over walls, scale the heights, keep my balance and persevere longer than I thought possible. I have complained, been irritated and despaired, rather than watching and asking the Holy Spirit to reveal what He was doing.
“So I advise you to buy gold from me--gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich…” (Rev. 3:18a)
The choice is always before us. Whether we will make ourselves rich in the character of Christ through the hardships that will come--regardless of our choices or actions-- or choose the bitterness of long regret, instead. It is in the refining heat of the furnace that gold is purified. Spiritual change never happens with greater speed or depth than it does during the most difficult experiences of our lives; when our most personal fires are raging in the chrysalis of our souls and all we can see is a smoldering wreck of circumstances. It is imperative that we begin to regard trials shrewdly; --as opportunities to be personally enriched--rather than just periods of time to be endured. For it is possible, even as Christians, to survive the wreck and never gain anything; to come out of the war a spiritual pauper rather than a rich man. But we are called to something better. We are the spiritual profiteers who reap beauty for ashes; praise in place of despair, honour instead of shame; life over death.
(This article was originally published in the Mar/Apr 2017 issue of live Magazine. Check them out at www.baptistwomen.com)