Friday, February 19, 2010

What Trials Teach

After his wife died, C. S. Lewis wrote in four empty manuscript books what he felt and sensed and pondered as he grieved. The manuscript books were, of course, published later into A Grief Observed. A small book full of big comfort.

In the third manuscript book Lewis filled, he wondered how far he had got in the grief process:

"How far have I got? Just as far, I think, as a widower of another sort who would stop, leaning on his spade, and say in answer to our inquiry, 'Thank'ee. Mustn't grumble. I do miss her something dreadful. But they say these things are sent to try us.' We have come to the same point; he with his spade, and I, who am not now much good at digging, with my own instrument. But of course one must take 'sent to try us' the right way. God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn't. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down."

This struck me. God does not allow trials in our lives because He doesn't know what we're made of and He wants to find out. He's not wondering, "Hmm... how's she going to respond this time?" He already knows.

He allows trials in our lives to show us what we are made of.

Once, while in Italy, I saw posted on the wall of a radio studio, "Christians are like tea bags. You never know what flavor they are until you put them in hot water."

My grief is deep. At the moment, I'm really not particularly interested in finding out what I'm made of. I don't want to work on my character or be stretched or grow or discover what flavor I would be if I were a teabag. (Herbal, by the way. Apple cinnamon.)

I just want my daddy back. I dream every night that he's back, that I get to hug him one last time, hear his laugh one last time, hold his hand one last time, look into his eyes one last time, bury my face in his chest, clutch the front of his shirt, and weep gut-wrenching sobs one last time. Beg him to stay one last time. Every morning I wake up to the crushing truth that there is no one last time. It's gone. He's gone.

Before getting out of bed, I grope for my Bible, or A Grief Observed, or the special bereavement edition of Our Daily Bread. Not because I'm spiritual or disciplined or faithful. Because I'm needy. Because I'm desperate. Because if I didn't, I wouldn't be able to get out of bed at all, and I would just lay there all day, crushed, smelling like weak apple cinnamon herbal tea full of dreg floaties.

But every morning when the grief hits me again, God gives me the strength to get out of bed. Every time I am shocked full of adrenaline as if I'm hearing about Dad's death for the first time, God fills me with inexplicable, supernatural peace. Every time I cry until I have no more tears, God whispers His promise to heal my broken heart and bind up my wounds. Every time I open my Bible in desperation, I hear, "Peace. Be still."

While I agree with C. S. Lewis that trials do teach us what we're made of, I am learning every day that trials have another benefit, a better benefit, a much more comforting and life-changing benefit. More than teaching us what we are made of, trials teach us what God is made of.

He is faithful. He is compassionate. He is gracious. He is slow to anger. He is rich in love. He is sovereign. He is just. He is holy. He is comfort. He is strength. He is peace.

And He is here.